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An  /  Examination  /  into  the  /  leading  principles  /  of 
the  /  Federal  Constitution  /  proposed  by  the  late  /  Con- 
vention /  held  at  Philadelphia.  /  With  /  Answers  to  the 
principal  objections  /  that  have  been  raised  against  the 
system.  /  By  a  Citizen  of  America.  /  — Ut  patria  sua 
felicitate  caeteris  praestaret,  efficit.  /  Xenoph.  Lacedaem. 
Resp.  /  Philadelphia :  /  Printed  and  sold  by  Prichard  & 
Hall,  in  Market  Street,  /  the  second  door  above  Laetitia 
Court.  /  M.DCC.LXXXVII. 

8vo.,  pp.  55. 


Written  by  Noah  Webster.  This  is  reprinted  from  his  own 
copy  of  the  pamphlet,  and  the  foot  notes  in  brakets  show  his 
corrections  and  additions. 

"This  is  a  hasty  production,  written  at  the  request  of 
Mr.  Fitzsimmons,  of  Philadelphia,  a  member  of  the  Conven- 
tion."— Indorsement  by  Noah  Webster. 

P.  L.  F. 


Avery  Architectural  and  Fine  Arts  Library 
Gift  of  Seymour  B.  Durst  Old  York  Library 


TO 

HIS  EXCELLENCY 

BENJAMIN  FRANKLIN,  Escl. 

PRESIDENT  OF  THE  COMMONWEALTH  OF 
PENNSYLVANIA, 

AND 

MEMBER  OF  THE  LATE  CONVENTION, 
HELD  AT  PHILADELPHIA  FOR  THE  PURPOSE  OF 
DEVISING  A  CONSTITUTION  FOR  THE 
GOVERNMENT  OF  THE  UNITED  STATES, 

THE  FOLLOWING  REMARKS  UPON  THE  SYSTEM 
RECOMMENDED  BY  THAT  CONVENTION, 

ARE  MOST  HUMBLY  INSCRIBED 
BY 

HIS  EXCELLENCY'S 

MOST  OBEDIENT 

HUMBLE  SERVANT, 

THE  AUTHOR. 

Philadelphia,  ) 
October  jo,  1787.  ) 


.  .WHZ 


Digitized  by  the  Internet  Archive 
in  2013 


http://archive.org/details/examinationintolOOwebs 


/^\F  all  the  memorable  aeras  that  have  marked  the  progress 
of  men  from  the  savage  state  to  the  refinements  of  lux- 
ury, that  which  has  combined  them  into  society,  under  a  wise 
system  of  government,  and  given  form  to  a  nation,  has  ever 
been  recorded  and  celebrated  as  the  most  important.  Legis- 
lators have  ever  been  deemed  the  greatest  benefactors  of  man- 
kind— respected  when  living,  and  often  deified  after  their 
death.  Hence  the  fame  of  Fohi  and  Confucius — of  Moses, 
Solon  and  Lycurgus — of  Romulus  and  Numa — of  Alfred, 
Peter  the  Great,  and  Mango  Capac ;  whose  names  will  be  cel- 
ebrated through  all  ages,  for  framing  and  improving  constitu- 
tions of  government,  which  introduced  order  into  society  and 
secured  the  benefits  of  law  to  millions  of  the  human  race. 

This  western  world  now  beholds  an  aera  important  beyond 
conception,  and  which  posterity  will  number  with  the  age  of 
Czar  of  Muscovy,  and  with  the  promulgation  of  the  Jewish 
laws  at  Mount  Sinai.  The  names  of  those  men  who  have 
digested  a  system  of  constitutions  for  the  American  empire, 
will  be  enrolled  with  those  of  Zamolxis  and  Odin,  and  cele- 
brated by  posterity  with  the  honors  which  less  enlightened 
nations  have  paid  to  the  fabled  demi-gods  of  antiquity. 

[6]  But  the  origin  of  the  American  REPUBLIC  is  distin- 
guished by  peculiar  circumstances.  Other  nations  have  been 
driven  together  by  fear  and  necessity — the  governments  have 
generally  been  the  result  of  a  single  man's  observations;  or 
the  offspring  of  particular  interests.  In  the  formation  of  our 
constitution,  the  wisdom  of  all  ages  is  collected — the  legisla- 
tors of  antiquity  are  consulted — as  well  as  the  opinions  and 
interests  of  the  millions  who  are  concerned.  In  short,  it  is  an 
empire  of  reason. 

In  the  formation  of  such  a  government,  it  is  not  only  the 
right,  but  the  indispensable  duty  of  every  citizen  to  examine 
the  principles  of  it,  to  compare  them  with  the  principles  of 
other  governments,  with  a  constant  eye  to  our  particular  situ- 


6 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER, 


ation  and  circumstances,  and  thus  endeavor  to  foresee  the 
future  operations  of  our  own  system,  and  its  effects  upon 
human  happiness. 

Convinced  of  this  truth,  I  have  no  apology  to  offer  for  the 
following  remarks,  but  an  earnest  desire  to  be  useful  to  my 
country. 

In  attending  to  the  proposed  Federal  Constitution,  the 
first  thing  that  presents  itself  to  our  consideration,  is  the 
division  of  the  legislative  into  two  branches.  This  article  has 
so  many  advocates  in  America,  that  it  needs  not  any  vindi- 
cation.*— But  it  has  its  opposers,  among  whom  are  some 
respectable  characters,  especially  in  Pennsylvania ;  for  which 
reason,  I  will  state  [7]  some  of  the  arguments  and  facts  which 
incline  me  to  favor  the  proposed  division. 

On  the  first  view  of  men  in  society,  we  should  suppose 
that  no  man  would  be  bound  by  a  law  to  which  he  had  not 
given  his  consent.  Such  would  be  our  first  idea  of  political 
obligation.  But  experience,  from  time  immemorial,  has  proved 
it  to  be  impossible  to  unite  the  opinions  of  all  the  members  of 
a  community,  in  every  case ;  and  hence  the  doctrine,  that  the 
opinions  of  a  majority  must  give  law  to  the  whole  State  :  a 
doctrine  as  universally  received,  as  any  intuitive  truth. 

Another  idea  that  naturally  presents  itself  to  our  minds, 
on  a  slight  consideration  of  the  subject,  is,  that  in  a  perfect 
government,  all  the  members  of  a  society  should  be  present, 
and  each  give  his  suffrage  in  acts  of  legislation,  by  which  he 
is  to  be  bound.  This  is  impracticable  in  large  states  ;  and 
even  were  it  not,  it  is  very  questionable  whether  it  would  be 
the  best  mode  of  legislation.  It  was  however  practised  in  the 
free  states  of  antiquity ;  and  was  the  cause  of  innumerable 
evils.  To  avoid  these  evils,  the  moderns  have  invented  the 
doctrine  of  representation,  which  seems  to  be  the  perfection  of 
human  government. 

Another  idea,  which  is  very  natural,  is,  that  to  complete 
the  mode  of  legislation,  all  the  representatives  should  be  col- 
lected into  one  body,  for  the  purpose  of  debating  questions 
and  enacting  laws.     Speculation  would  suggest  the  idea ; 

*  A  division  of  the  legislature  has  been  adopted  in  the  new  constitution  of 
every  state  except  Pennsylvania  and  Georgia. 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


7 


[8]  and  the  desire  of  improving  upon  the  systems  of  govern- 
ment in  the  old  world,  would  operate  powerfully  in  its  favor. 

But  men  are  ever  running  into  extremes.  The  passions, 
after  a  violent  constraint,  are  apt  to  run  into  licentiousness ; 
and  even  the  reason  of  men,  who  have  experienced  evils  from 
the  defects  of  a  government,  will  sometimes  coolly  condemn 
the  whole  system. 

Every  person,  moderately  acquainted  with  human  nature, 
knows  that  public  bodies,  as  well  as  individuals,  are  liable  to 
the  influence  of  sudden  and  violent  passions,  under  the  oper- 
ation of  which,  the  voice  of  reason  is  silenced.  Instances  of 
such  influence  are  not  so  frequent,  as  in  individuals ;  but  its 
effects  are  extensive  in  proportion  to  the  numbers  that  com- 
pose the  public  body.  This  fact  suggests  the  expediency  of 
dividing  the  powers  of  legislation  between  the  two  bodies  of 
men,  whose  debates  shall  be  separate  and  not  dependent  on 
each  other;  that,  if  at  any  time,  one  part  should  appear  to  be 
under  any  undue  influence,  either  from  passion,  obstinacy, 
jealousy  of  particular  men,  attachment  to  a  popular  speaker, 
or  other  extraordinary  causes,  there  might  be  a  power  in  the 
legislature  sufficient  to  check  every  pernicious  measure.  Even 
in  a  small  republic,  composed  of  men,  equal  in  property  and 
abilities,  and  all  meeting  for  the  purpose  of  making  laws,  like 
the  old  Romans  in  the  field  of  Mars,  a  division  of  the  body 
into  two  independent  branches,  would  be  a  necessary  step  to 
prevent  the  disorders,  which  arise  from  [9]  the  pride,  irritability 
and  stubborness  of  mankind.  This  will  ever  be  the  case, 
while  men  possess  passions,  easily  inflamed,  which  may  bias 
their  reason  and  lead  them  to  erroneous  conclusions. 

Another  consideration  has  weight :  A  single  body  of  men 
may  be  led  astray  by  one  person  of  abilities  and  address, 
who,  on  the  first  starting  a  proposition,  may  throw  a  plausible 
appearance  on  one  side  of  the  question,  and  give  a  lead  to  the 
whole  debate.  To  prevent  any  ill  consequence  from  such  a 
circumstance,  a  separate  discussion,  before  a  different  body  of 
men,  and  taken  up  on  new  grounds,  is  a  very  eligible  expedient. 

Besides,  the  design  of  a  senate  is  not  merely  to  check  the 
legislative  assembly,  but  to  collect  wisdom  and  experience. 


3 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


In  most  of  our  constitutions,  and  particularly  in  the  proposed 
federal  system,  greater  age  and  longer  residence  are  required 
to  qualify  for  the  senate,  than  for  the  house  of  representa- 
tives. This  is  a  wise  provision.  The  house  of  representatives 
may  be  composed  of  new  and  unexperienced  members — 
strangers  to  the  forms  of  proceeding,  and  the  science  of  legis- 
lation. But  either  positive  institutions,  or  customs,  which 
may  supply  their  place,  fill  the  senate  with  men  venerable  for 
age  and  respectability,  experienced  in  the  ways  of  men,  and 
in  the  art  of  governing,  and  who  are  not  liable  to  the  bias  of 
passions  that  govern  the  young.  If  the  senate  of  Rhode 
Island  is  an  exception  to  this  observation,  it  is  a  proof  that 
the  mass  of  the  people  are  corrupted,  and  that  the  senate 
should  be  elected  [10]  less  frequently  than  the  other  house  : 
Had  the  old  senate  in  Rhode  Island  held  their  seats  for  three 
years ;  had  they  not  been  chosen,  amidst  a  popular  rage  for 
paper  money,  the  honor  of  that  state  would  probably  have 
been  saved.  The  old  senate  would  have  stopped  the  measure 
for  a  year  or  two,  till  the  people  could  have  had  time  to 
deliberate  upon  its  consequences.  I  consider  it  as  a  capital 
excellence  of  the  proposed  constitution,  that  the  senate  can 
be  wholly  renewed  but  once  in  six  years. 

Experience  is  the  best  instructor — it  is  better  than  a  thou- 
sand theories.  The  history  of  every  government  on  earth 
affords  proof  of  the  utility  of  different  branches  in  a  legisla- 
ture. But  I  appeal  only  to  our  own  experience  in  America. 
To  what  cause  can  we  ascribe  the  absurd  measures  of  Con- 
gress, in  times  past,  and  the  speedy  recision  of  whole  meas- 
ures, but  to  the  want  of  some  check?  I  feel  the  most 
profound  deference  for  that  honorable  body,  and  perfect 
respect  for  their  opinions ;  but  some  of  their  steps  betray  a 
great  want  of  consideration — a  defect,  which  perhaps  nothing 
can  remedy,  but  a  division  of  their  deliberations.  I  will  in- 
stance only  their  resolution  to  build  a  Federal  Town.  When 
we  were  involved  in  a  debt,  of  which  we  could  hardly  pay  the 
interest,  and  when  Congress  could  not  command  a  shilling, 
the  very  proposition  was  extremely  absurd.  Congress  them- 
selves became  ashamed  of  the  resolution,  and  rescinded  it 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


9 


with  as  much  silence  as  possible.  Many  other  acts  of  that 
body  are  equally  reprehensible — but  respect  forbids  me  to 
mention  them. 

[n]  Several  states,  since  the  war,  have  experienced  the 
necessity  of  a  division  of  the  legislature.  Maryland  was  saved 
from  a  most  pernicious  measure,  by  her  senate.  A  rage  for 
paper  money,  bordering  on  madness,  prevailed  in  their  house 
of  delegates — an  emission  of  500,000  was  proposed  ;  a  sum 
equal  to  the  circulating  medium  of  the  State.  Had  the  sum 
been  emitted,  every  shilling  of  specie  would  have  been  driven 
from  circulation,  and  most  of  it  from  the  state.  Such  a  loss 
would  not  have  been  repaired  in  seven  years — not  to  mention 
the  whole  catalogue  of  frauds  which  would  have  followed  the 
measure.  The  senate,  like  honest,  judicious  men,  and  the 
protectors  of  the  interests  of  the  state,  firmly  resisted  the 
rage,  and  gave  the  people  time  to  cool  and  to  think.  Their 
resistance  was  effectual — the  people  acquiesced,  and  the  honor 
and  interest  of  the  state  were  secured. 

The  house  of  representatives  in  Connecticut,  soon  after  the 
war,  had  taken  offence  at  a  certain  act  of  Congress.  The 
upper  house,  who  understood  the  necessity  and  expediency  of 
the  measure,  better  than  the  people,  refused  to  concur  in  a 
remonstrance  to  Congress.  Several  other  circumstances  gave 
umbrage  to  the  lower  house ;  and  to  weaken  or  destroy  the 
influence  of  the  senate,  the  representatives,  among  other  vio- 
lent proceedings,  resolved,  not  merely  to  remove  the  seat  of 
government,  but  to  make  every  county  town  in  the  state  the 
seat  of  government,  by  rotation.  This  foolish  resolution 
would  have  disgraced  school-boys  —  the  senate  saved  the 
honor  of  the  state,  by  rejecting  it  with  disdain — [12]  and  within 
two  months,  every  representative  was  ashamed  of  the  conduct 
of  the  house.  All  public  bodies  have  these  fits  of  passion, 
when  their  conduct  seems  to  be  perfectly  boyish  ;  and  in  these 
paroxisms,  a  check  is  highly  necessary. 

Pennsylvania  exhibits  many  instances  of  this  hasty  con- 
duct. At  one  session  of  the  legislature,  an  armed  force  is 
ordered,  by  a  precipitate  resolution,  to  expel  the  settlers  at 
Wioming  from  their  possessions — at  a  succeeding  session,  the 


IO 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


same  people  are  confirmed  in  their  possessions.  At  one  ses- 
sion, a  charter  is  wrested  from  a  corporation — at  another, 
restored.  The  whole  state  is  split  into  parties — everything  is 
decided  by  party — any  proposition  from  one  side  of  the  house, 
is  sure  to  be  damned  by  the  other — and  when  one  party  per- 
ceives the  other  has  the  advantage,  they  play  truant — and  an 
officer  or  a  mob  hunt  the  absconding  members  in  all  the 
streets  and  alleys  in  town.  Such  farces  have  been  repeated 
in  Philadelphia — and  there  alone.  Had  the  legislature  been 
framed  with  some  check  upon  rash  proceedings,  the  honor  of 
the  state  would  have  been  saved — the  party  spirit  would  have 
died  with  the  measures  proposed  in  the  legislature.  But  now, 
any  measure  may  be  carried  by  party  in  the  house ;  it  then 
becomes  a  law,  and  sows  the  seeds  of  dissension  throughout 
the  state.* 

[13]  A  thousand  examples  similar  to  the  foregoing  may 
be  produced,  both  in  ancient  and  modern  history.  Many 
plausible  things  may  be  said  in  favor  of  pure  democracy — 
many  in  favor  of  uniting  the  representatives  of  the  people  in 
one  single  house — but  uniform  experience  proves  both  to  be 
inconsistent  with  the  peace  of  society,  and  the  rights  of  free- 
men. 

The  state  of  Georgia  has  already  discovered  such  incon- 
veniences in  its  constitution,  that  a  proposition  has  been  made 
for  altering  it ;  and  there  is  a  prospect  that  a  revisal  will  take 
place. 

People  who  have  heard  and  read  of  the  European  govern- 
ments, founded  on  the  different  ranks  of  monarch,  nobility  and 
people,  seem  to  view  the  senate  in  America,  where  there  is  no 
difference  of  ranks  and  titles,  as  a  useless  branch — or  as  a  ser- 
vile imitation  of  foreign  constitutions  of  governmeut,  without 
the  same  reasons.    This  is  a  capital  mistake.    Our  senates,  it 

*  I  cannot  help  remarking  the  singular  jealousy  of  the  constitution  of 
Pennsylvania,  which  requires  that  a  bill  shall  be  published  for  the  considera- 
tion of  the  people,  before  it  is  enacted  into  a  law,  except  in  extraordinary 
cases.  This  annihilates,  the  legislature,  and  reduces  it  to  an  advisory  body. 
It  almost  wholly  supersedes  the  uses  of  representation,  the  most  excellent  im- 
provement in  modern  governments.  Besides  the  absurdity  of  constituting  a 
legislature,  without  supreme  power,  such  a  system  will  keep  the  state  perpetu- 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


II 


is  true,  are  not  composed  of  a  different  order  of  men ;  but  the 
same  reasons,  the  same  necessity  for  distinct  branches  of  the 
legislature  exists  in  all  governments.  But  in  most  of  our 
American  constitutions,  we  have  all  the  advantages  of  checks 
and  balance,  without  the  danger  which  may  arise  [14]  from  a 
superior  and  independent  order  of  men. 

It  is  worth  our  while  to  institute  a  brief  comparison  be- 
tween our  American  forms  of  government,  and  the  two  best 
constitutions  that  ever  existed  in  Europe,  the  Roman  and  the 
British. 

In  England,  the  king  or  supreme  executive  officer,  is 
hereditary.  In  America,  the  president  of  the  United  States, 
is  elective.  That  this  is  an  advantage  will  hardly  be  dis- 
puted.- 

In  ancient  Rome,  the  king  was  elective,  and  so  were  the 
consuls,  who  were  the  executive  officers  in  the  republic.  But 
they  were  elected  by  the  body  of  the  people,  in  their  public 
assemblies;  and  this  circumstance  paved  the  way  for  such  ex- 
cessive bribery  and  corruption  as  are  wholly  unknown  in 
modern  times.  The  president  of  the  United  States  is  also 
elective  ;  but  by  a  few  men  chosen  by  the  several  legisla- 
tures under  their  inspection  separated  at  a  vast  dis- 
tance and  holding  no  office  under  the  United  States. 

Such  a  mode  of  election  almost  precludes  the  possibility  of 
corruption.  Besides,  no  state  however  large,  has  the  power 
of  chusing  a  president  in  that  state ;  for  each  elector  must 
choose  at  least  one  man,  who  is  not  an  inhabitant  of  that  State 
to  which  he  belongs. 

The  crown  of  England  is  hereditary — the  consuls  of  Rome 
were  chosen  annually — both  these  extremes  are  guarded 
against  in  our  proposed  constitution.    The  president  is  not 

ally  embroiled.  It  carries  the  spirit  of  discussion  into  all  quarters,  without 
the  means  of  reconciling  the  opinions  of  men,  who  are  not  assembled  to  hear 
each  others'  arguments.  They  debate  with  themselves— form  their  own  opin- 
ions, without  the  reasons  which  influence  others,  and  without  the  means  of 
information.  Thus  the  warmth  of  different  opinions,  which,  in  other  states, 
dies  in  the  legislature,  is  diffused  through  the  state  of  Pennsylvania,  and  be- 
comes personal  and  permanent.  The  seeds  of  dissension  are  sown  in  the  con- 
stitution, and  no  state,  except  Rhode  Island,  is  so  distracted  by  factions. 


12  EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 

dis-  [15]  missed  from  his  office,  as  soon  as  he  is  acquainted 
with  business — he  continues  four  years,  and  is  re-eligible,  if 
the  people  approve  his  conduct.  Nor  can  he  canvass  for  his 
office,  by  reason  of  the  distance  of  the  electors  ;  and  the  pride 
and  jealousy  of  the  states  will  prevent  his  continuing  too  long 
in  office. 

The  age  requisite  to  qualify  for  this  office  is  thirty-five 
years.*  The  age  requisite  for  admittance  to  the  Roman  con- 
sulship was  forty-three  years.  For  this  difference,  good  rea- 
sons may  be  assigned — the  improvements  in  science,  and 
particularly  in  government,  render  it  practicable  for  a  man  to 
qualify  himself  for  an  important  office,  much  earlier  in  life? 
than  he  could  among  the  Romans ;  especially  in  the  early 
part  of  their  commonwealth,  when  the  office  was  instituted. 
Besides  it  is  very  questionable  whether  any  inconvenience 
would  have  attended  admission  to  the  consulship  at  an  earlier 
age.  [f] 

The  powers  vested  in  the  president  resemble  the  powers 
of  the  supreme  magistrates  in  Rome.  They  are  not  so  exten- 
sive as  those  of  the  British  king;  but  in  one  instance,  the 
president,  with  concurrence  of  the  senate,  has  powers  exceed- 
ing those  of  the  Roman  consuls ;  I  mean  in  the  appointment 
of  judges  and  other  subordinate  executive  officers.  The  prae- 
tors or  judges  in  Rome  were  chosen  annually  by  the  people. 
This  was  a  defect  in  the  Roman  government.  [16]  One  half 
the  evils  in  a  state  arise  from  a  lax  execution  of  the  laws ;  and 
it  is  impossible  that  an  executive  officer  can  act  with  vigor 
and  impartiality,  when  his  office  depends  on  the  popular  voice. 
An  annual  popular  election  of  executive  officers  is  the  sure 
source  of  a  negligent,  partial  and  corrupt  administration.  The 
independence  of  the  judges  in  England  has  produced  a  course 
of  the  most  just,  impartial  and  energetic  judicial  decisions,  for 
many  centuries,  that  can  be  exhibited  in  any  nation  on  earth. 
In  this  point  therefore  I  conceive  the  plan  proposed  in  Amer- 
ica to  be  an  improvement  on  the  Roman  constitution.    In  all 

*  In  the  decline  of  the  republic,  bribery  or  military  force  obtained  this 
office  for  persons  who  had  not  attained  this  age — Augustus  was  chosen  at  the 
age  of  twenty;  or  rather  obtained  it  with  his  sword. 

[f  "Query."] 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


13 


free  governments,  that  is,  in  all  countries,  where  laws  govern , 
and  not  men,  the  supreme  magistrate  should  have  it  in  his 
power  to  execute  any  law,  however  unpopular,  without  haz- 
arding his  person  or  office.  The  laws  are  the  sole  guardians 
of  right,  and  when  the  magistrate  dares  not  act,  every  person 
is  insecure. 

Let  us  now  attend  to  the  constitution  and  the  powers  of 
the  senate. 

The  house  of  lords  in  England  is  wholly  independent  on  [f  ] 
the  people.  The  lords  spiritual  hold  their  seats  by  office;  and 
the  people  at  large  have  no  voice  in  disposing  of  the  ecclesias- 
tical dignities.  The  temporal  lords  hold  their  seats  by  heredi- 
tary right  or  by  grant  from  the  king:  And  it  is  a  branch  of 
the  king's  prerogative  to  make  what  peers  he  pleases. 

[17]  The  senate  in  Rome  was  elective  ;  but  a  senator  held 
his  seat  for  life.* 

[fof] 

*  I  say  the  senate  was  elective — but  this  must  be  understood  with  some 
exceptions;  or  rather  qualifications.  The  constitution  of  the  Roman  senate  has 
been  a  subject  of  enquiry,  with  the  first  men  in  modern  ages.  Lord  Chester- 
field requested  the  opinion  of  the  learned  Vertot,  upon  the  manner  of  chusing 
senators  in  Rome;  and  it  was  a  subject  of  discussion  between  Lord  Harvey  and 
Dr.  Middleton.  The  most  probable  account  of  the  manner  of  forming  the  se- 
nate, and  filling  up  vacancies,  which  I  have  collected  from  the  best  writers  on 
this  subject,  is  here  abridged  for  the  consideration  of  the  reader. 

Romulus  chose  one  hundred  persons,  from  the  principal  families  in  Rome, 
to  form  a  council  or  senate;  and  reserved  to  himself  the  right  of  nominating 
their  successors  ;  that  is  of  filling  vacancies.  "Mais  comme  Romulus  avoit  lui 
"  m£me  choisi  les  premiers  senateurs  il  se  reserva  le  droit  de  nommer  a  son 
"  gre,  leurs  successeurs." — Mably,  sur  les  Romains.  Other  well  informed  his- 
torians intimate  that  Romulus  retained  the  right  of  nominating  the  president 
only.  After  the  union  of  the  Sabines  with  the  Romans,  Romulus  added  an- 
other hundred  members  to  the  senate,  but  by  consent  of  the  people.  Tarquin, 
the  ancient,  added  another  hundred;  but  historians  are  silent  as  to  the  manner. 

On  the  destruction  of  Alba  by  Hostilius,  some  of  the  principal  Alban  fam- 
ilies were  added  to  the  senate,  by  consent  of  the  senate  and  people. 

After  the  demolition  of  the  monarchy,  Appius  Claudius  was  admitted  into 
the  senate  by  order  of  the  people. 

Cicero  testifies  that,  from  the  extinction  of  the  monarchy,  all  the  members 
of  the  senate  were  admitted  by  command  of  the  people. 

It  is  observable  that  the  first  creation  of  the  senators  was  the  act  ot  the 
monarch;  and  the  first  patrician  families  claimed  the  sole  right  of  admission 


14  EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 

[18]  The  proposed  senate  in  America  is  constituted  on  prin- 
ples  more  favorable  to  liberty :  The  members  are  elective,  and 
by  the  separate  legislatures  :  They  hold  their  seats  for  six 
years — they  are  thus  rendered  sufficiently  dependent  on  their 
constituents;  and  yet  are  not  dismissed  from  their  office  as 
soon  as  they  become  acquainted  with  the  forms  of  proceeding. 

It  may  be  objected  by  the  larger  states,  that  the  represen- 
tation is  not  equal;  the  smallest  states  having  the  privilege  of 
sending  the  same  number  of  senators  as  the  largest.  To  obvi- 
ate this  objection,  I  would  suggest  but  two  or  three  ideas. 

I.  If  each  state  had  a  representation  and  a  right  in  deciding 
questions,  proportional  to  its  property,  three  states  would 
almost  command  the  whole.  Such  a  constitution  would  grad- 
ually annihilate  the  small  states  ;  and  finally  melt  down  the 
whole  United  States  into  one  undivided  sovereignty.  The 
free  states  of  Spain  and  the  heptarchy  in  England,  afford  strik_ 
ing  examples  of  this. 

[19]  Should  it  be  said  that  such  an  event  is  desirable,  I  answer; 
the  states  are  all  entitled  to  their  respective  sovereignties, 
and  while  they  claim  independence  in  international  jurisdic- 
tion, the  federal  constitution  ought  to  guarantee  their  sover- 
eignty. 

into  the  senate.  "  Les  families  qui  descendoient  des  deux  cent  senateurs  que 
"  Romulus  avoit  crees, — se  crurent  seules  en  droit  d'entrer  dans  le  senat." — 
Mably 

This  right  however  was  not  granted  in  its  utmost  extent  ;  for  many  of  the 
senators  in  the  Roman  commonwealth,  were  taken  from  plebian  families.  For 
sixty  years  before  the  institution  of  the  censorship,  which  was  A.  U.  C.  31  J,  we 
are  not  informed  how  vacancies  in  the  senate  were  supplied.  The  most  proba- 
ble method  was  this  ;  to  enrol,  in  the  list  of  senators,  the  different  magistrates; 
viz.,  the  consuls,  praetors,  the  two  quaetors  of  patrician  families,  the  five  tri- 
bunes (afterwards  ten)  and  the  two  aediles  of  plebian  families:  The  office  of 
quaestor  gave  an  immediate  admission  into  the  senate.  The  tribunes  were  ad- 
mitted two  years  after  their  creation.  This  enrollment  seems  to  have  been  a 
matter  of  course;  and  likewise  their  confirmation  by  the  people  in  their  comitia 
or  assemblies. 

On  extraordinary  occasions,  when  the  vacancies  of  the  senate  were  numer- 
ous, the  consuls  used  to  nominate  some  of  the  most  respectable  of  the  eques- 
trian order,  to  be  chosen  by  the  people. 

On  the  institution  of  the  censorship,  the  censors  were  invested  with  full 
powers  to  inspect  the  manners  of  the  citizens, — enrol  them  in  their  proper 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


Another  consideration  has  weight — There  is,  in  all  nations, 
a  tendency  toward  an  accumulation  of  power  in  some  point. 
It  is  the  business  of  the  legislator  to  establish  some  barriers 
to  check  the  tendency.  In  small  societies,  a  man  worth 
100,000  has  but  one  vote,  when  his  neighbors,  who  are 
worth  but  fifty  pounds,  have  each  one  vote  likewise.  To  make 
property  the  sole  basis  of  authority,  would  expose  many  of  the 
best  citizens  to  violence  and  oppression.  To  make  the  num- 
ber of  inhabitants  [*]  in  a  state,  the  rule  of  apportioning 
power,  is  more  epuitable ;  and  were  the  United  States  one 
indivisible  interest,  would  be  a  perfect  rule  for  representation. 
But  the  detached  situation  of  the  states  has  created  some  sep- 
arate interests — some  local  institutions,  which  they  will  not 
resign  nor  throw  into  the  hands  of  other  states.  For  these 
peculiar  interests,  the  states  have  an  equal  attachment — for  the 
preservation  and  enjoyment  of  these,  an  equal  sovereignty  is 
necessary ;  and  the  sovereignty  of  each  state  would  not  be 
secure,  had  each  state,  in  both  branches  of  the  legislature  an 
authority  in  passing  laws,  proportioned  to  its  inhabitants. 

3.  But  the  senate  should  be  considered  as  representing  the 

ranks  according  to  their  property, — make  out  lists  of  the  senators  and  leave 
out  the  names  of  such  as  had  rendered  themselves  unworthy  of  their  dignity 
by  any  scandalous  vices.  This  power  they  several  times  exercised  ;  but  the 
disgraced  senators  had  an  appeal  to  the  people. 

After  the  senate  had  lost  half  its  members  in  the  war  with  Hannibal,  the 
dictator,  M.  Fabius  Buteo,  filled  up  the  number  with  the  magistrates,  with  those 
who  had  been  honored  with  a  civic  crown,  or  others  who  were  respectable  for 
age  and  character.  One  hundred  and  seventy  new  members  were  added  at 
once,  with  the  approbation  of  the  people.  The  vacancies  occasioned  by  Sylla's 
proscriptions  amounted  to  three  hundred,  which  were  supplied  by  persons  nom- 
inated by  Sylla  and  chosen  by  the  people. 

Before  the  time  of  the  Gracchi,  the  number  of  senators  did  not  exceed  three 
hundred.  But  in  Sylla's  time,  so  far  as  we  can  collect  from  direct  testimonies, 
it  amounted  to  about  five  hundred.  The  age  necessary  to  qualify  for  aseat  in 
the  senate  is  not  exactly  ascertained  ;  but  several  circumstances  prove  it  to 
have  been  about  thirty  years. 

See  Vertot,  Mably,  and  Middleton  on  this  subject. 

In  the  last  ages  of  Roman  splendor,  the  property  requisite  to  qualify  a 
person  for  a  senator,  was  settled  by  Augustus  at  eight  hundred  sestertia — more 
than  six  thousand  pounds  sterling. 

[*  "Between  states,  and  excluding  negroes,"  added  in  author's  copy. — P.  L.  F.} 


i6 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


confederacy  in  a  body.  It  is  a  [20]  false  principle  in  the  vulgar 
idea  of  representation,  that  a  man  delegated  by  a  particular 
district  in  a  state,  is  the  representative  of  that  district  only ; 
whereas  in  truth  a  member  of  the  legislature  from  any  town 
or  county,  is  the  representative  of  the  whole  state.  In  pass- 
ing laws,  he  is  to  view  the  whole  collective  interest  of  the 
state,  and  act  from  that  view  ;  not  from  a  partial  regard  to  the 
interest  of  the  town  or  county  where  he  is  chosen. 

The  same  principle  extends  to  the  Congress  of  the  United 
States.  A  delegate  is  bound  to  represent  the  true  local  inter, 
est  of  his  constituents — to  state  in  its  true  light  to  the  whole 
body — but  when  each  provincial  interest  is  thus  stated,  every 
member  should  act  for  the  aggregate  interest  of  the  whole 
confederacy.  The  design  of  representation  is  to  bring  the 
collective  interest  into  view — a  delegate  is  not  the  legislator 
of  a  single  state — he  is  as  much  the  legislator  of  the  whole 
confederacy  as  of  the  particular  state  where  he  is  chosen  ;  and 
if  he  gives  his  vote  for  a  law  which  he  believes  to  be  beneficial 
to  his  own  state  only,  and  pernicious  to  the  rest,  he  betrays 
his  trust  and  violates  his  oath.  It  is  indeed  difficult  for  a  man 
to  divest  himself  of  local  attachments  and  act  from  an  impar- 
tial regard  to  the  general  good ;  but  he  who  cannot  for  the 
most  part  do  this,  is  not  a  good  legislator. 

These  considerations  suggest  the  propriety  of  continuing 
the  senators  in  office,  for  a  longer  period,  than  the  representa- 
tives. They  gradually  lose  their  partiality,  generalize  their 
views,  [21]  and  consider  themselves  as  acting  for  the  whole 
confederacy.  Hence  in  the  senate  we  may  expect  union  and 
firmness — here  we  may  find  the  general  good  the  object  of  leg- 
islation, and  a  check  upon  the  more  partial  and  interested  acts 
of  the  other  branch. 

These  considerations  obviate  the  complaint,  that  the  repre- 
sentation in  the  senate  is  not  equal ;  for  the  senators  represent 
the  whole  confederacy;  and  all  that  is  wanted  of  the  members 
is  information  of  the  true  situation  and  interest  of  each  state. 
As  they  act  under  the  direction  of  the  several  legislatures, 
two  men  may  as  fully  and  completely  represent  a  state,  as 
twenty ;  and  when  the  true  interest  of  each  state  is  known,  if 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


17 


the  senators  perform  the  part  of  good  legislators,  and  act  im- 
partially for  the  whole  collective  body  of  the  United  States, 
it  is  totally  immaterial  where  they  are  chosen.* 

[22]  The  house  of  representatives  is  the  more  immediate 
voice  of  the  separate  states — here  the  states  are  represented 
in  proportion  to  their  number  of  inhabitants — here  the  separ- 
ate interests  will  operate  with  their  full  force,  and  the  violence 
of  parties  and  the  jealousies  produced  by  interfering  interests, 
can  be  restrained  and  quieted  only  by  a  body  of  men,  less 
local  and  dependent. 

It  may  be  objected  that  no  separate  interests  should  exist 
in  a  state  ;  and  a  division  of  the  legislature  has  a  tendency  to 
create  them.  But  this  objection  is  founded  on  mere  jealousy, 
or  a  very  imperfect  comparison  of  the  Roman  and  British  gov- 
ernments, with  the  proposed  federal  constitution. 

*  It  is  a  capital  defect  of  most  of  the  state-constitutions,  that  the  senators, 
like  the  representatives,  are  chosen  in  particular  districts,  They  are  thus  in- 
spired with  local  views,  and  however  wrong  it  may  be  to  entertain  them,  yet 
such  is  the  constitution  of  human  nature,  that  men  are  almost  involuntarily 
attached  to  the  interest  of  the  district  which  has  reposed  confidence  in  their 
abilities  and  integrity.  Some  partiality  therefore  for  constituents  is  always 
expectable.  To  destroy  it  as  much  as  possible,  a  political  constitution  should 
remove  the  grounds  of  local  attachment.  Connecticut  and  Maryland  have 
wisely  destroyed  this  attachment  in  their  senates,  by  ordaining  that  the  members 
shall  be  chosen  in  the  state  at  large.  The  senators  hold  their  seats  by  the  suf- 
frages of  the  state,  not  of  a  district;  hence  they  have  no  particular  number  of 
men  to  fear  or  to  oblige. — They  represent  the  state;  hence  that  union  and  firm- 
ness which  the  senates  of  those  states  have  manifested  on  the  most  trying  occa- 
sions, and  by  which  they  have  prevented  the  most  rash  and  iniquitous  measures. 

It  may  be  objected,  that  when  the  election  of  senators  is  vested  in  the  peo- 
ple, they  must  choose  men  in  their  own  neighborhood,  or  else  those  with  whom 
they  are  unacquainted.  With  respect  to  representatives,  this  objection  does 
not  lie  ;  for  they  are  chosen  in  small  districts  ;  and  as  to  senators,  there  is,  in 
every  state,  a  small  number  of  men,  whose  reputation  for  abilities,  integrity 
and  good  conduct  will  lead  the  people  to  a  very  just  choice.  Old  experienced 
statesmen  should  compose  the  senate  ;  and  people  are  generally,  in  this  free 
country,  acquainted  with  their  characters.  Were  it  possible,  as  it  is  in  small 
states,  it  would  be  an  improvement  in  the  doctrine  of  representation,  to  give 
every  freeman  the  right  of  voting  for  every  member  of  the  legislature,  and  the 
privilege  of  choosing  the  men  in  any  part  of  the  state.  This  would  totally 
exclude  bribery  and  undue  influence  ;  for  no  man  can  bribe  a  state  ;  and  it 
would  almost  annihilate  partial  views  in  legislation.  But  in  large  states  it  may 
be  impracticable. 


i8 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


The  house  of  peers  in  England  is  a  body  originally  and 
totally  independent  on  [*]  the  people — the  senate  in  Rome 
was  mostly  composed  of  patrician  or  noble  families,  and  after 
the  first  election  of  a  senator,  he  was  no  longer  dependent  on 
the  people — he  held  his  seat  for  life.  But  the  senate  of  the 
United  States  can  have  no  separate  interests  from  the  body  of 
the  people;  for  they  live  among  them — they  are  chosen  by 
them — they  must  be  dismissed  from  their  place  once  in  six 
years  and  may  at  any  time  be  impeached  for  mal-practices — 
— their  property  is  si-  [23]  tuated  among  the  people,  and  with 
their  persons,  subject  to  the  same  laws.  No  title  can  be 
granted,  but  the  temporary  titles  of  office,  bestowed  by  the 
voluntary  election  of  the  people  ;  and  no  pre-eminence  can  be 
acquired  but  by  the  same  means. 

The  separation  of  the  legislature  divides  the  power — checks 
— restrains — amends  the  proceedings — at  the  same  time,  it 
creates  no  division  of  interest,  that  can  tempt  either  branch  to 
encroach  upon  the  other,  or  upon  the  people.  In  turbulent 
times,  such  restraint  is  our  greatest  safety — in  calm  times,  and 
in  measures  obviously  calculated  for  the  general  good,  both 
branches  must  always  be  unanimous. 

A  man  must  be  thirty  years  of  age  before  he  can  be  admit- 
ted into  the  senate — which  was  likewise  a  requisite  in  the 
Roman  government.  What  property  was  requisite  for  a  sen- 
ator in  the  early  ages  of  Rome,  I  cannot  inform  myself ;  but 
Augustus  fixed  it  at  six  hundred  sestertia — between  six  and 
seven  thousand  pounds  sterling.  In  the  federal  constitution, 
money  is  not  made  a  requisite — the  places  of  senators  are 
wisely  left  open  to  all  persons  of  suitable  age  and  merit,  and 
who  have  been  citizens  of  the  United  States  for  nine  years ;  a 
term  in  which  foreigners  may  acquire  the  feelings  and  acquaint 
themselves  with  the  interests,  of  the  native  Americans. 

The  house  of  representatives  is  formed  on  very  equitable 
principles ;  and  is  calculated  to  guard  the  privileges  of  the 
people.  The  English  [24]  house  of  commons  is  chosen  by  a 
small  part  of  the  people  of  England,  and  continues  for  seven 
years.  The  Romans  never  discovered  the  secret  of  represen- 
tation— the  whole  body  of  citizens  assembled  for  the  purposes 

[*  of] 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


19 


of  legislation — a  circumstance  that  exposed  their  government 
to  frequent  convulsions,  and  to  capricious  measures.  The 
federal  house  of  representatives  is  chosen  by  the  people  qual- 
ified to  vote  for  state  representatives,*  and  continues  two 
years. 

[25]  Some  may  object  to  their  continuance  in  power  two 
years.  But  I  cannot  see  any  danger  arising  from  this  quarter. 
On  the  contrary,  it  creates  less  trouble  for  the  representatives, 
who  by  such  choice  are  taken  from  their  professions  and 
obliged  to  attend  Congress,  some  of  them  at  the  distance  of 
at  least  seven  hundred  miles.  While  men  are  chosen  by  the 
people,  and  responsible  to  them,  there  is  but  little  danger 
from  ambition  or  corruption. 

If  it  should  be  said  that  Congress  may  in  time  become  tri- 
ennial, and  even  septennial,  like  the  English  parliaments,  I 
answer,  this  is  not  in  their  power.  The  English  parliament 
had  power  to  prolong  the  period  of  their  existence — but  Con- 
gress will  be  restrained  by  the  different  legislatures,  without 

*  It  is  said  by  some,  that  no  property  should  be  required  as  a  qualification 
for  an  elector.  I  shall  not  enter  into  a  discussion  of  the  subject;  but  remark 
that  in  most  free  governments,  some  property  has  been  thought  requisite,  to 
prevent  corruption  and  secure  government  from  the  influence  of  an  unprinci. 
pled  multitude. 

In  ancient  Rome  none  but  the  free  citizens  had  the  right  of  a  suffrage  in  the 
comitia  or  legislative  assemblies.  But  in  Sylla's  time  the  Italian  cities  demanded 
the  rights  of  the  Roman  citizens;  alledging  that  they  furnished  two-thirds  of  the 
armies,  in  all  their  wars,  and  yet  were  despised  as  foreigners.  Veil  Paterc. 
lib.  2.  cap.  15.  This  produced  the  Marsic  or  social  war,  which  lasted  two 
years,  and  caried  off  300,000  men.  Ibm.  It  was  conducted  and  concluded  by 
Pompey,  father  of  Pompey  the  Great,  with  his  lieutenants  Sylla  and  Marius. 
But  most  of  the  cities  eventually  obtained  the  freedom  of  Rome;  and  were  of 
course  entitled  to  the  rights  of  suffrage  in  the  comitia.  "Paulatim  deinde  recip- 
"  iendo  in  civitatem,  qui  arma  aut  non  ceperant  aut  deposuerant  maturius, 
"vires  refectae  sunt."    Veil.  Paterc.  2.  16. 

But  Rome  had  cause  to  deplore  this  event,  for  however  reasonable  it  might 
appear  to  admit  the  allies  to  a  participation  of  the  rights  of  citizens,  yet  the 
concession  destroyed  all  freedom  of  election.  It  enabled  an  ambitious  dema- 
gogue to  engage  and  bring  into  the  assemblies,  whole  towns  of  people,  slaves 
and  foreigners; — and  everything  was  decided  by  faction  and  violence.  This 
Montesquieu  numbers  among  the  causes  of  the  decline  of  the  Roman  greatness. 
De  la  grandeur  des  Romains,  c.  9. 

Representation  would  have,  in  some  measure,  prevented  the  consequences; 


20 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


whose  constitutional  concurrence,  no  alteration  can  be  made 
in  the  proposed  system. 

The  fourth  section,  article  I,  of  the  new  constitution 
declares  that  "The  times,  places,  and  manner  of  holding  elec- 
"  tions  for  senators  and  representatives,  shall  be  prescribed  in 
"  each  state  by  the  legislature  thereof  ;  but  the  Congress  may 
"  at  any  time  by  law  make  or  alter  such  regulations,  except  as  to 

"  the  places  of  chusing  senators."  Here  let  us  pause  What 

did  the  convention  mean  by  giving  Congress  power  to  make 
regulations,  prescribed  by  the  legislatures?  Is  this  expression 
accurate  or  intelligible?  But  the  word  alter  is  very  intelligi- 
ble, and  the  clause  puts  the  election  of  representatives  wholly, 
and  [26]  the  senators  almost  wholly,  in  the  power  of  Congress. 

The  views  of  the  convention  I  believe  to  be  perfectly 
upright — They  might  mean  to  place  the  election  of  representa- 
tives and  senators  beyond  the  reach  of  faction — They  doubtless 
had  good  reasons,  in  their  minds,  for  the  clause — But  I  see  no 
occasion  for  any  power  in  Congress  to  interfere  with  the 
choice  of  their  own  body — They  will  have  power  to  suppress 
insurrections,  as  they  ought  to  have  ;  but  the  clause  in  Italics 
gives  needless  and  dangerous  powers — I  hope  the  states  will 
reject  it  with  decency,  and  adopt  the  whole  system,  without 
altering  another  syllable.  [*] 

The  method  of  passing  laws  in  Congress  is  much  preferable 
to  that  of  ancient  Rome  or  modern  Britain.  Not  to  mention 
other  defects  in  Rome,  it  lay  in  the  power  of  a  single  tribune 

but  the  admission  of  every  man  to  a  suffrage  will  ever  open  the  door  to  corrup- 
tion. In  such  a  state  as  Connecticut,  where  there  is  no  conflux  of  foreigners,  no 
introduction  of  seamen,  servants,  &c,  and  scarcely  an  hundred  persons  in  the 
state  who  are  not  natives,  and  very  few  whose  education  and  connexions  do 
not  attach  them  to  the  government  ;  at  the  same  time  few  men  have  property 
to  furnish  the  means  of  corruption,  very  little  danger  could  spring  from  admit- 
ting every  man  of  age  and  discretion  to  the  privilege  of  voting  for  rulers.  But 
in  the  large  towns  of  America  there  is  more  danger.  A  master  of  a  vessel  may 
put  votes  in  the  hands  of  his  crew,  for  the  purpose  of  carrying  an  election  for  a 
party.  Such  things  have  actually  taken  place  in  America.  Besides,  the  mid- 
dle states  are  receiving  emigrations  of  poor  people,  who  are  not  at  once  judges 
of  the  characters  of  men,  and  who  cannot  be  safely  trusted  with  the  choice  of 
legislators. 

[*  These  two  paragraphs  struck  out  in  author's  copy. — p.  l.  f.] 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


21 


to  obstruct  the  passing  of  a  law.  As  the  tribunes  were  popu- 
lar magistrates,  the  right  was  often  exercised  in  favor  of  lib- 
erty ;  but  it  was  also  abused,  and  the  best  regulations  were 
prevented,  to  gratify  the  spleen,  the  ambition,  or  the  resent- 
ment of  an  individual. 

The  king  of  Great-Britain  has  the  same  power,  but  seldom 
exercises  it.  It  is  however  a  dangerous  power — it  is  absurd 
and  hazardous  to  lodge  in  one  man  the  right  of  controlling  the 
will  of  a  state. 

Every  bill  that  passes  a  majority  of  both  houses  of  Con- 
gress, must  be  sent  to  the  president  for  [27]  his  approbation  ; 
but  it  must  be  returned  in  ten  days,  whether  approved  by  him 
or  not  ;  and  the  concurrence  of  two  thirds  of  both  houses  passes 
the  bill  into  a  law,  notwithstanding  any  objections  of  the  presi- 
dent. The  constitution  therefore  gives  the  supreme  executive 
a  check  but  no  negative,  upon  the  sense  of  Congress. 

The  powers  lodged  in  Congress  are  extensive  ;  but  it  is 
presumed  that  they  are  not  too  extensive.  The  first  object  of 
the  constitution  is  to  unite  the  states  into  one  compact  society, 
for  the  purpose  of  government.  If  such  union  must  exist,  or 
the  states  be  exposed  to  foreign  invasions,  internal  discord, 
reciprocal  encroachments  upon  each  others  property — to 
weakness  and  infamy,  which  no  person  will  dispute  ;  what 
powers  must  be  collected  and  lodged  in  the  supreme  head  or 
legislature  of  these  states.  The  answer  is  easy :  This  legisla- 
ture must  have  exclusive  jurisdiction  in  all  matters  in  which 
the  states  have  a  mutual  interest.  There  are  some  regulations 
in  which  all  the  states  are  equally  concerned — there  are  others, 
which  in  their  operation,  are  limited  to  one  state.  The  first 
belongs  to  Congress — the  last  to  the  respective  legislatures.  No 
one  state  has  a  right  to  supreme  control,  in  any  affair  in  which 
the  other  states  have  an  interest,  nor  should  Congress  interfere 
in  any  affair  which  respects  one  state  only.  This  is  the  gen- 
eral line  of  division,  which  the  convention  have  endeavored  to 
draw,  between  the  powers  of  Congress  and  the  rights  of  the 
individual  states.  The  only  question  therefore  is,  whether 
the  new  constitution  delegates  to  Congress  any  powers  which 
[28]  do  not  respect  the  general  interest  and  welfare  of  the 


22 


RXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


United  States.  If  these  powers  intrench  upon  the  present 
sovereignty  of  any  state,  without  having  for  an  object  the  col- 
lective interest  of  the  whole,  the  powers  are  too  extensive.  But 
if  they  do  not  extend  to  all  concerns,  in  which  the  states  have 
a  mutual  interest,  they  are  too  limited.  If  in  any  instance5 
the  powers  necessary  for  protecting  the  general  interest,  inter- 
fere with  the  constitutional  rights  of  an  individual  state,  such 
state  has  assumed  powers  that  are  inconsistent  with  the  safety 
of  the  United  States,  and  which  ought  instantly  to  be  resigned. 
Considering  the  states  as  individuals,  on  equal  terms,  entering 
into  a  social  compact,  no  state  has  a  right  to  any  power  which 
may  prejudice  its  neighbors.  If  therefore  the  federal  constitu- 
tion has  collected  into  the  federal  legislature  no  more  power 
than  is  necessary  for  the  common  defence  and  interest,  it  should 
be  recognized  by  the  states,  however  particular  clauses  may 
supersede  the  exercise  of  certain  powers  by  the  individual 
states. 

This  question  is  of  vast  magnitude.  The  states  have  very 
high  ideas  of  their  separate  sovereignty;  altho' it  is  certain, 
that  while  each  exists  in  its  full  latitude,  we  can  have  no  Fed- 
eral sovereignty.  However  flattered  each  state  may  be  by  its 
independent  sovereignty,  we  can  have  no  union,  no  respecta- 
bility, no  national  character,  and  what  is  more,  no  national 
justice,  till  the  states  resign  to  one  supreme  head  the  exclusive 
power  of  legislating,  judging  and  executing,  in  all  matters  of  a 
general  nature.  Every  thing  of  [29]  a  private  or  provincial 
nature,  must  still  rest  on  the  ground  of  the  respective  state- 
constitutions. 

After  examining  the  limits  of  the  proposed  congressional 
powers,  I  confess  I  do  not  think  them  too  extensive — I  firmly 
believe  that  the  life,  liberty  and  property  of  every  man,  and 
the  peace  and  independence  of  each  state,  will  be  more  fully 
secured  under  such  a  constitution  of  federal  government,  than 
they  will  under  a  constitution  with  more  limited  powers;  and 
infinitely  more  safe  than  under  our  boasted  distinct  sovereign- 
ties. It  appears  to  me  that  Congress  will  have  no  more  power 
than  will  be  necessary  for  our  union  and  general  welfare  ;  and 
such  power  they  must  have  or  we  are  in  a  wretched  state.  On 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


23 


the  adoption  of  this  constitution,  I  should  value  real  estate 
twenty  per  cent,  higher  than  I  do  at  this  moment. 

I  will  not  examine  into  the  extent  of  the  powers  proposed 
to  be  lodged  in  the  supreme  federal  head  ;  the  subject  would 
be  extensive  and  require  more  time  than  I  could  bestow  upon 
it.  But  I  will  take  up  some  objections,  that  have  been  made 
to  particular  points  of  the  new  constitution. 

Most  of  the  objections  I  have  yet  heard  to  the  constitution, 
consist  in  mere  insinuations  unsupported  by  reasoning  or  fact. 
They  are  thrown  out  to  instil  groundless  jealousies  into  the 
minds  of  the  people,  and  probably  with  a  view  to  prevent  all 
government ;  for  there  are,  in  every  society,  some  turbulent 
geniuses  whose  importance  [30]  depends  solely  on  faction. 
To  seek  the  insidious  and  detestable  nature  of  these  insinua- 
tions, it  is  necessary  to  mention,  and  to  remark  on  a  few  par- 
ticulars. 

1.  The  first  objection  against  the  constitution  is,  that  the 
legislature  will  be  more  expensive  than  our  present  confedera- 
tion. This  is  so  far  from  being  true,  that  the  money  we  actually 
lose  by  our  present  weakness,  disunion  and  want  of  government 
would  support  the  civil  government  of  every  state  in  the  con- 
federacy. Our  public  poverty  does  not  proceed  from  the 
expensiveness  of  Congress,  nor  of  the  civil  list ;  but  from  want 
of  power  to  command  our  own  advantages.  We  pay  more 
money  to  foreign  nations,  in  the  course  of  business,  and  merely 
for  want  of  government,  than  would,  under  an  efficient  govern- 
ment, pay  the  annual  interest  of  our  domestic  debt.  Every 
man  in  business  knows  this  to  be  truth  ;  and  the  objection  can 
be  designed  only  to  delude  the  ignorant. 

2.  Another  objection  to  the  constitution,  is  the  division  of 
the  legislature  into  two  branches.  Luckily  this  objection  has 
no  advocates  but  in  Pennsylvania ;  and  even  here  their  num- 
ber is  dwindling.  The  factions  that  reign  in  this  state,  the 
internal  discord  and  passions  that  disturb  the  government  and 
the  peace  of  the  inhabitants,  have  detected  the  errors  of  the 
constitution,  and  will  some  time  or  other  produce  a  reforma- 
tion. The  division  of  the  legislature  has  been  the  subject  of 
discussion  in  the  beginning  of  this  essay  ;  and  will  be  deemed, 


24 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


by  nineteen-twentieths  of  [31]  the  Americans,  one  of  the  prin- 
cipal excellencies  of  the  constitution. 

3.  A  third  insinuation,  is  that  the  proposed  federal  gov- 
ernment will  annihilate  the  several  legislatures.  This  is  ex- 
tremely disingenuous.  Every  person,  capable  of  reading, 
must  discover,  that  the  convention  have  labored  to  draw  the 
line  between  the  federal  and  provincial  powers — to  define  the 
powers  of  Congress,  and  limit  them  to  those  general  concerns 
which  must  come  under  federal  jurisdiction,  and  which  cannot 
be  managed  in  the  separate  legislatures — that  in  all  internal 
regulations,  whether  of  civil  or  criminal  nature,  the  states 
retain  their  sovereignty,  and  have  it  guaranteed  to  them  by 
this  very  constitution.  Such  a  groundless  insinuation,  or 
rather  mere  surmise,  must  proceed  from  dark  designs  or 
extreme  ignorance,  and  deserves  the  severest  reprobation. 

4.  It  is  alledged  that  the  liberty  of  the  press  is  not  guar- 
anteed by  the  new  constitution.  But  this  objection  is  wholly 
unfounded.  The  liberty  of  the  press  does  not  come  within 
the  jurisdiction  of  federal  government.  It  is  firmly  established 
in  all  the  states  either  by  law,  or  positive  declarations  in  bills 
of  right ;  and  not  being  mentioned  in  the  federal  constitution, 
is  not — and  cannot  be  abridged  by  Congress.  It  stands  on  the 
basis  of  the  respective  state-constitutions.  Should  any  state 
resign  to  Congress  the  exclusive  jurisdiction  of  a  certain  dis- 
trict, which  should  include  any  town  where  presses  are  already 
established,  it  is  in  the  power  of  the  state  to  reserve  [32]  the 
liberty  of  the  press,  or  any  other  fundamental  privilege,  and 
make  it  an  immutable  condition  of  the  grant,  that  such  rights 
shall  never  be  violated.  All  objections  therefore  on  this  score 
are  "  baseless  visions." 

5.  It  is  insinuated  that  the  constitution  gives  Congress  the 
power  of  levying  internal  taxes  at  pleasure.  This  insinuation 
seems  founded  on  the  eighth  section  of  the  first  article,  which 
declares,  that  "  Congress  shall  have  power  to  lay  and  collect 
"  taxes,  duties,  imposts  and  excises,  to  pay  the  debts  and  pro- 
"  vide  for  the  common  defence  and  general  welfare  of  the 
44  United  States." 

That  Congress  should  have  power  to  collect  duties,  imposts 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


25 


and  excises,  in  order  to  render  them  uniform  throughout  the 
United  States  will  hardly  be  controverted.  The  whole  objec- 
tion is  to  the  right  of  levying  internal  taxes. 

But  it  will  be  conceded  that  the  supreme  head  of  the  states 
must  have  power,  competent  to  the  purposes  of  our  union,  or 
it  will  be,  as  it  now  is,  a  useless  body,  a  mere  expense,  without 
any  advantage.  To  pay  our  public  debt,  to  support  foreign 
ministers  and  our  own  civil  government,  money  must  be 
raised  ;  and  if  the  duties  and  imposts  are  not  adequate  to 
these  purposes,  where  shall  the  money  be  obtained  ?  It  will 
be  answered,  let  Congress  apportion  the  sum  to  be  raised,  and 
leave  the  legislatures  to  collect  the  money.  Well  this  is  all 
that  is  intended  by  the  clause  under  consideration  ;  with  the 
addition  of  a  fe-  [33]  deral  power  that  shall  be  sufficient  to 
oblige  a  delinquent  state  to  comply  with  the  requisition.  [*] 
Such  power  must  exist  somewhere,  or  the  debts  of  the  United 
States  can  never  be  paid.  For  want  of  such  power,  our  credit 
is  lost  and  our  national  faith  is  a  bye-word. 

For  want  of  such  power,  one  state  now  complies  fully  with 
a  requisition,  another  partially,  and  a  third  absolutely  refuses 
or  neglects  to  grant  a  shilling.  Thus  the  honest  and  punctual 
are  doubly  loaded — and  the  knave  triumphs  in  his  negligence. 
In  short,  no  honest  man  will  dread  a  power  that  shall  enforce 
an  equitable  system  of  taxation.  The  dis-honest  are  ever 
apprehensive  of  a  power  that  shall  oblige  them  to  do  what 
honest  men  are  ready  to  do  voluntarily. 

Permit  me  to  ask  those  who  object  to  this  power  of  taxa- 
tion, how  shall  money  be  raised  to  discharge  our  honest  debts 
which  are  universally  acknowledged  to  be  just?  ^Have  we 
not  already  experienced  the  inefficacy  of  a  system  without 
power?  Has  it  not  been  proved  to  demonstration,  that  a  vol- 
untary compliance  with  the  demands  of  the  union  can  never 
be  expected  ?  To  what  expedient  shall  we  have  recourse  ? 
What  is  the  resort  of  all  governments  in  cases  of  delinquency? 
Do  not  the  states  vest  in  the  legislature,  or  even  in  the  gov- 
ernor and  council,  a  power  to  enforce  laws,  even  with  the  mil- 
itia of  the  states  ?  And  how  rarely  does  there  exist  the  neces- 
sity of  exerting  such  a  power?    Why  should  such  a  power  be 

[*  Last  two  sentences  struck  out  in  author's  copy. — p.  l.  f.] 


26 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


more  dangerous  in  Congress  than  in  a  legislature  ?  Why 
should  [34]  more  confidence  be  reposed  in  a  member  of  one 
legislature  than  of  another?  Why  should  we  choose  the  best 
men  in  the  state  to  represent  us  in  Congress,  and  the  moment 
they  are  elected  arm  ourselves  against  them  as  against  tyrants 
and  robbers  ?  Do  we  not,  in  this  conduct,  act  the  part  of  a 
man,  who,  as  soon  as  he  has  married  a  woman  of  unsuspected 
chastity,  locks  her  up  in  a  dungeon?  Is  there  any  spell  or 
charm,  that  instantly  changes  a  delegate  to  Congress  from  an 
honest  man  into  a  knave — a  tyrant?  I  confess  freely  that  I 
am  willing  to  trust  Congress  with  any  powers  that  I  should 
dare  lodge  in  a  state-legislature.  I  believe  life,  liberty,  and 
property  is  as  safe  in  the  hands  of  a  federal  legislature,  organ- 
ized in  the  manner  proposed  by  the  convention,  as  in  the 
hands  of  any  legislature,  that  has  ever  been  or  ever  will  be 
chosen  in  any  particular  state. 

But  the  idea  that  Congress  can  levy  taxes  at  pleasure  is 
false,  and  the  suggestion  wholly  unsupported.    The  preamble 
to  the  constitution  is  declaratory  of  the  purposes  of  our  union.' 
and  the  assumption  of  any  powers  not  necessary  to  establish 
justice,  insure  domestic  tranquility,  provide  for  the  common 
defence,  promote  the  general  welfare,  and  to  secure  the  blessi?igs 
of  liberty  to  ourselves  and  our  posterity,  will  be  unconstitutional, 
and  endanger  the  existence  of  Congress.    Besides,  in  the  very 
clause  which  gives  the  power  of  levying  duties  and  taxes,  the 
purposes  to  which  the  money  shall  be  appropriated  are  speci- 
fied, viz.  to  pay  the  debts  and  provide  for  the  common  de-  [35] 
fence  and  general  welfare  of  the  United  States*    For  these 
purposes  money  must  be  collected,  and  the  power  of  collection 
must  be  lodged,  sooner  or  later,  in  a  federal  head  ;  or  the  com- 
mon defence  and  general  welfare  must  be  neglected. 

The  states  in  their  separate  capacity,  cannot  provide  for 

*  The  clause  may  at  first  appear  ambiguous.  It  may  be  uncertain  whether 
we  should  read  and  understand  it  thus — "The  Congress  shall  have  power  to 
"lay  and  collect  taxes, 'duties,  imposts  and  excises  in  order  to  pay  the  debts"  &c. 
or  whether  the  meaning  is — "The  Congress  shall  have  power  to  lay  and  collect 
"  taxes,  duties,  imposts  and  excises,  and  shall  have  power  to  pay  the  debts"  &c. 
On  considering  the  construction  of  the  clause,  and  comparing  it  with  the  pre- 
amble, the  last  sense  seems  to  be  improbable  and  absurd.    But  it  is  not  very 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


27 


the  common  defence  ;  nay  in  case  of  a  civil  war,  a  state  cannot 
secure  its  own  existence.  The  only  question  therefore  is, 
whether  it  is  necessary  to  unite,  and  provide  for  our  common 
defence  and  general  welfare.  For  this  question  being  once 
decided  in  the  affirmative,  leaves  no  room  to  controvert  the 
propriety  of  constituting  a  power  over  the  whole  United 
States,  adequate  to  these  general  purposes. 

The  states,  by  granting  such  power,  do  not  throw  it  out 
of  their  own  hands — they  only  throw,  each  its  proportion,  into 
a  common  stock — they  merely  combine  the  powers  of  the  sev- 
eral states  into  one  point,  where  they  must  be  collected,  before 
they  can  be  exerted.  But  the  powers  are  still  in  their  own 
hands  ;  and  cannot  be  alienated,  till  they  create  a  body  inde- 
pendent of  them-  [36]  selves,  with  a  force  at  their  command, 
superior  to  the  whole  yeomanry  of  the  country. 

6.  It  is  said  there  is  no  provision  made  in  the  new  consti- 
tution against  a  standing  army  in  time  of  peace.  Why  do  not 
people  object  that  no  provision  is  made  against  the  introduc- 
tion of  a  body  of  Turkish  Janizaries;  or  against  making  the 
Alcoran  the  rule  of  faith  and  practice,  instead  of  the  Bible  ? 
The  answer  to  such  objections  is  simply  this — no  stick  provision 
is  necessary.  The  people  in  this  country  cannot  forget  their 
apprehensions  from  a  British  standing  army,  quartered  in 
America  ;  and  they  turn  their  fears  and  jealousies  against  them- 
selves. Why  do  not  the  people  of  most  of  the  states  apprehend 
danger  from  standing  armies  from  their  own  legislatures? 
Pennsylvania  and  North  Carolina,  I  believe,  are  the  only  states 
that  have  provided  against  this  danger  at  all  events.  Other 
states  have  declared  that  "  no  standing  armies  shall  be  kept  up 
without  the  consent  of  the  legislature."  But  this  leaves  the 
power  entirely  in  the  hands  of  the  legislature.  Many  of  the 
states  however  have  made  no  provision  against  this  evil.  What 

material;  for  no  powers  are  vested  in  Congress  but  what  are  included  under 
the  general  expressions,  of  providing  for  the  common  defence  and  general  welfare 
of  the  United  States.  Any  powers  not  promotive  of  these  purposes,  will  be 
unconstitutional; — consequently  any  appropriations  of  money  to  any  other  pur- 
pose will  expose  the  Congress  to  the  resentment  of  the  states,  and  the  members 
to  impeachment  and  loss  of  their  seats. 


28 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


hazards  these  states  suffer !  Why  does  not  a  man  pass  a  law 
in  his  family,  that  no  armed  soldier  shall  be  quartered  in  his 
house  by  his  consent  ?  The  reason  is  very  plain  :  no  man  will 
suffer  his  liberty  to  be  abridged,  or  endangered — his  disposi- 
tion and  his  power  are  uniformly  opposed  to  any  infringement 
of  his  rights.  In  the  same  manner,  the  principles  and  habits, 
as  well  as  the  power  of  the  Americans  are  directly  opposed  to 
standing  armies  ;  and  there  is  as  little  [37]  necessity  to  guard 
against  them  by  positive  constitutions,  as  to  prohibit  the 
establishment  of  the  Mahometan  religion.  But  the  constitu- 
tion provides  for  our  safety ;  and  while  it  gives  Congress 
power  to  raise  armies,  it  declares  that  no  appropriation  of 
money  to  their  support  shall  be  for  a  longer  term  than  two 
years. 

Congress  likewise  are  to  have  power  to  provide  for  organ- 
izing, arming  and  disciplining  the  militia,  but  have  no  other 
command  of  them,  except  when  in  actual  service.  Nor  are 
they  at  liberty  to  call  out  the  militia  at  pleasure — but  only,  to 
execute  the  laws  of  the  union,  suppress  insurrections,  and 
repel  invasions.  For  these  purposes,  government  must  always 
be  armed  with  a  military  force,  if  the  occasion  should  require 
it ;  otherwise  laws  are  nugatory,  and  life  and  property  inse- 
cure. 

7.  Some  persons  have  ventured  to  publish  an  intimation, 
that  by  the  proposed  constitution,  the  trial  by  jury  is  abolished 
in  all  civil  cases.  Others  very  modestly  insinuate,  that  it  is  in 
some  cases  only.  The  fact  is,  that  trial  by  jury  is  not  affected 
in  any  case,  by  the  constitution ;  except  in  cases  of  impeach- 
ment, which  are  to  be  tried  by  the  senate.  None  but  persons 
in  office  in  or  under  Congress  can  be  impeached  ;  and  even 
after  a  judgment  upon  an  impeachment,  the  offender  is  liable 
to  a  prosecution,  before  a  common  jury,  in  a  regular  course  of 
law.  The  insinuation  therefore  that  trials  by  jury  are  to  be 
abolished,  is  groundless,  and  beyond  conception,  wicked.  It 
must  be  wicked,  because  the  circu-  [38]  lation  of  a  barefaced 
falsehood,  respecting  a  privilege,  dear  to  freemen,  can  proceed 
only  from  a  depraved  heart  and  the  worst  intentions. 

8.  It  is  also  intimated  as  a  probable  event,  that  the  federal 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


29 


courts  will  absorb  the  judiciaries  of  the  federal  states.  This  is 
a  mere  suspicion,  without  the  least  foundation.  The  jurisdic- 
tion of  the  federal  states  is  very  accurately  defined  and  easily 
understood.  It  extends  to  the  cases  mentioned  in  the  consti- 
tution, and  to  the  execution  of  the  laws  of  Congress,  respect- 
ing commerce,  revenue,  and  other  general  concerns. 

With  respect  to  other  civil  and  criminal  actions,  the  powers 
and  jurisdiction  of  the  several  judiciaries  of  each  state,  remain 
unimpaired.  Nor  is  there  anything  novel  in  allowing  appeals 
to  the  supreme  court.  Actions  are  mostly  to  be  tried  in  the 
state  where  the  crimes  are  committed — But  appeals  are  al- 
lowed under  our  present  confederation,  and  no  person  com- 
plains ;  nay,  were  there  no  appeal,  every  man  would  have 
reason  to  complain,  especially  when  a  final  judgement,  in  an 
inferior  court,  should  affect  property  to  a  large  amount.  But 
why  is  an  objection  raised  against  an  appellate  jurisdiction  in 
the  supreme  court,  respecting/*?*;/  as  well  as  law?  Is  it  less 
safe  to  have  the  opinions  of  two  juries  than  of  one  ?  I  sus- 
pect many  people  will  think  this  is  no  defect  in  the  constitu- 
tion. But  perhaps  it  will  destroy  a  material  requisite  of  a 
good  jury,  viz.  their  vicinity  to  the  cause  of  action.  I  have  no 
doubt,  that  when  causes  were  tried,  in  periods  prior  to  the 
Christian  aera,  before  [39]  twelve  men,  seated  upon  twelve 
stones,  arranged  in  a  circular  form,  under  a  huge  oak,  there 
was  great  propriety  in  submitting  causes  to  men  in  the  vicinity. 
The  difficulty  of  collecting  evidence,  in  those  rude  times,  ren- 
dered it  necessary  that  juries  should  judge  mostly  from  their 
own  knowledge  of  facts  or  from  information  obtained  out  of 
court.  But  in  these  polished  ages,  when  juries  depend  almost 
wholly  on  the  testimony  of  witnesses  ;  and  when  a  complica- 
tion of  interests,  introduced  by  commerce  and  other  causes, 
renders  it  almost  impossible  to  collect  men,  in  the  vicinity 
of  the  parties,  who  are  wholly  disinterested,  it  is  no  disadvan- 
tage to  have  a  cause  tried  by  a  jury  of  strangers.  Indeed  the 
latter  is  generally  the  most  eligible. 

But  the  truth  is,  the  creation  of  all  inferior  courts  is  in  the 
power  of  Congress ;  and  the  constitution  provides  that  Con- 
gress may  make  such  exceptions  from  the  right  of  appeals  as 


30 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


they  shall  judge  proper.  When  these  courts  are  erected,  their 
jurisdictions  will  be  ascertained,  and  in  small  actions,  Congress 
will  doubtless  direct  that  a  sentence  in  a  subordinate  court 
shall,  to  a  certain  amount,  be  definite  and  final.  All  objec- 
tions therefore  to  the  judicial  powers  of  the  federal  courts 
appear  to  me  as  trifling  as  any  of  the  preceding. 

9.  But,  say  the  enemies  of  slavery,  negroes  may  be  imported 
for  twenty-one  years.  This  exception  is  addressed  to  the 
quakers ;  and  a  very  pitiful  exception  it  is. 

[40]  The  truth  is,  Congress  cannot  prohibit  the  importation 
of  slaves  during  that  period  ;  but  the  laws  against  the  import- 
ation into  particular  states,  stand  unrepealed.  An  immediate 
abolition  of  slavery  would  bring  ruin  upon  the  whites,  and 
misery  upon  the  blacks,  in  the  southern  states.  The  constitu- 
tion has  therefore  wisely  left  each  state  to  pursue  its  own 
measures,  with  respect  to  this  article  of  legislation,  during  the 
period  of  twenty-one  years. 

Such  are  the  principal  objections  that  have  yet  been  made 
by  the  enemies  of  the  new  constitution.  They  are  mostly 
frivolous,  or  founded  on  false  constructions,  and  a  misrepre- 
sentation of  the  true  state  of  facts.  They  are  evidently 
designed  to  raise  groundless  jealousies  in  the  minds  of  well 
meaning  people,  who  have  little  leisure  and  opportunity  to 
examine  into  the  principles  of  government.  But  a  little  time 
and  reflection  will  enable  most  people  to  detect  such  mischiev- 
ous intentions ;  and  the  spirit  and  firmness  which  have  distin- 
guished the  conduct  of  the  Americans,  during  the  conflict  for 
independence,  will  eventually  triumph  over  the  enemies  of 
union,  and  bury  them  in  disgrace  or  oblivion. 

But  I  cannot  quit  this  subject  without  attempting  to  correct 
some  of  the  erroneous  opinions  respecting/Vm/^;/*  and  tyranny, 
and  the  principles  by  which  they  are  supported.  Many  people 
seem  to  entertain  an  idea,  that  liberty  consists  in  a  power  to 
act  without  any  control.  This  is  more  liberty  than  even  the 
savages  enjoy.  But  in  civil  society,  political  liberty  consists  in 
[41]  acting  conformably  to  a  sense  of  a  majority  of  the  society.  In 
a  free  government  every  man  binds  himself  to  obey  the  public 
voice,  or  the  opinions  of  a  majority;  and  the  whole  society 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


31 


engages  to  protect  each  individual.  In  such  a  government  a 
man  is  free  and  safe.  But  reverse  the  case ;  suppose  every 
man  to  act  without  control  or  fear  of  punishment — every  man 
would  be  free,  but  no  man  would  be  sure  of  his  freedom  one 
moment.  Each  would  have  the  power  of  taking  his  neighbor's 
life,  liberty,  or  property  ;  and  no  man  would  command  more 
than  his  own  strength  to  repel  the  invasion.  The  case  is  the 
same  with  states.  If  the  states  should  not  unite  into  one 
compact  society,  every  state  may  trespass  upon  its  neighbor, 
and  the  injured  state  has  no  means  of  redress  but  its  own 
military  force. 

The  present  situation  of  our  American  states  is  very  little 
better  than  a  state  of  nature — Our  boasted  state  sovereignties 
are  so  far  from  securing  our  liberty  and  property,  that  they, 
every  moment,  expose  us  to  the  loss  of  both.  That  state 
which  commands  the  heaviest  purse  and  longest  sword,  may  at 
any  moment,  lay  its  weaker  neighbor  under  tribute  ;  and  there 
is  no  superior  power  now  existing,  that  can  regularly  oppose 
the  invasion  or  redress  the  injury.  From  such  liberty,  O 
*Lord,  deliver  us ! 

But  what  is  tyranny?  Or  how  can  a  free  people  be  de- 
prived of  their  liberties  ?  Tyranny  is  the  exercise  of  some 
power  over  a  man,  which  is  not  warranted  by  law,  or  necessary 
for  the  public  safety.  A  people  can  never  be  deprived  of 
[42]  their  liberties,  while  they  retain  in  their  own  hands,  a 
power  sufficient  to  any  other  power  in  the  state.  This  posi- 
tion leads  me  directly  to  enquire,  in  what  consists  the  power 
of  a  nation  or  of  an  order  of  men  ? 

In  some  nations,  legislators  have  derived  much  of  their 
power  from  the  influence  of  religion,  or  from  that  implicit 
belief  which  an  ignorant  and  superstitious  people  entertain  of 
the  gods,  and  their  interposition  in  every  transaction  of  life. 
The  Roman  senate  sometimes  availed  themselves  of  this 
engine  to  carry  their  decrees  and  maintain  their  authority. 
This  was  particularly  the  case,  under  the  aristocracy  which 
succeeded  the  abolition  of  the  monarchy.    The  augurs  and 

[*  "  O  "  changed  to  "  good  "  in  author's  copy    p.  l.  f.] 


32 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


priests  were  taken  wholly  from  patrician  families.*  They 
constituted  a  distinct  order  of  men — had  power  to  negative 
any  law  of  the  people,  by  declaring  that  it  was  passed  during 
the  taking  of  the  auspices.f  [T]  This  influence  derived  from 
the  authority  of  opinion,  was  less  perceptible,  but  as  tyranni- 
cal as  a  military  force.  The  same  influence  constitutes,  at 
this  day,  a  principal  support  of  federal  governments  on  the 
Eastern  continent,  and  perhaps  in  South  America.  But  in 
North  America,  by  a  singular  concurrence  of  circumstances, 
the  possibility  of  establishing  this  influence,  as  a  pillar  of  gov- 
ernment, is  totally  precluded. 

[43]  Another  source  of  power  in  government  is  a  military 
force.  But  this,  to  be  efficient,  must  be  superior  to  any  force 
that  exists  among  the  people,  or  which  they  can  command  : 
for  otherwise  this  force  would  be  annihilated,  on  the  first 
exercise  of  acts  of  oppression.  Before  a  standing  army  can 
rule,  the  people  must  be  disarmed  ;  as  they  are  in  almost 
every  kingdom  in  Europe.  The  supreme  power  in  America 
cannot  enforce  unjust  laws  by  the  sword ;  because  the  whole 
body  of  the  people  are  armed,  and  constitute  a  force  superior 
to  any  band  of  regular  troops  that  can  be,  on  any  pretence, 
raised  in  the  United  States.  A  military  force,  at  the  com- 
mand of  Congress,  can  execute  no  laws,  but  such  as  the  people 
perceive  to  be  just  and  constitutional ;  for  they  will  possess 
the  pozver,  and  jealousy  will  instantly  inspire  the  inclination, 
to  resist  the  execution  of  a  law  which  appears  to  them  unjust 
and  oppressive.  In  spite  of  all  the  nominal  powers,  vested  in 
Congress  by  the  constitution,  were  the  system  once  adopted 
in  its  fullest  latitude,  still  the  actual  exercise  of  them  would 
be  frequently  interrupted  by  popular  jealousy.  I  am  bold  to 
say,  that  ten  just  and  constitutional  measures  would  be  re- 
sisted, where  one  unjust  or  oppressive  law  would  be  enforced. 

*  "  Quod  nemo  plebeius  auspicia  haberet,  ideoque  decemviros  connubium 
diremisse,  ne  incerta  prole  auspicia  turbarentur."    Tit.  Liv.  lib.  4.  cap.  6. 

f  Auguriis  certe  sacerdotisque  augurum  tantus  honos  accessit,  ut  nihil  belli 
domique  postea,  nisi  auspicato,  gereretur  :  concilia  populi,  exercitus  vocati, 
summa  rerum,  ubi  aves  non  admisissent,  dirimerentur.    Liv.  lib.  1.  cap.  37. 

[T[  "  The  "  and  "  of  "  struck  out — "  without  "  substituted  in  author's  copy — 

P.  L.  F.] 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


33 


The  powers  vested  in  Congress  are  little  more  than  nominal ; 
nay  real  power  cannot  be  vested  in  them,  nor  in  any  body,  but 
in  the  people.  The  source  of  power  is  in  the  people  of  this 
country,  and  cannot  for  ages,  and  probably  never  will,  be  re- 
moved, [f]. 

In  what  then  does  real  power  consist  ?  The  answer  is 
short  and  plain — in  property.  Could  [44]  we  want  any  proofs 
of  this,  which  are  not  exhibited  in  this  country,  the  uniform 
testimony  of  history  will  furnish  us  with  multitudes.  But  I 
will  go  no  farther  for  proof,  than  the  two  governments  already 
mentioned,  the  Roman  and  the  British. 

Rome  exhibited  a  demonstrative  proof  of  the  inseparable 
connexion  between  property  and  dominion.  The  first  form 
of  its  government  was  an  elective  monarchy — its  second,  an 
aristocracy;  but  these  forms  could  not  be  permanent,  because 
they  were  not  supported  by  property.  The  kings  at  first  and 
afterwards  the  patricians  had  nominally  most  of  the  power.; 
but  the  people,  possessing  most  of  the  lands,  never  ceased  to 
assert  their  privileges,  till  they  established  a  commonwealth. 
And  the  kings  and  senate  could  not  have  held  the  reigns  of 
government  in  their  hands  so  long  as  they  did,  had  they  not 
artfully  contrived  to  manage  the  established  religion,  and  play 
off  the  superstitious  credulity  of  the  people  against  their  own 
power.  "Thus  this  weak  constitution  of  government,"  says 
the  ingenious  Mr.  Moyle,  speaking  of  the  aristocracy  of  Rome, 
"  not  founded  on  the  true  center  of  dominion,  land,  nor  on  any 
"  standing  foundation  of  authority,  nor  rivetted  in  the  esteem 
"  and  affections  of  the  people ;  and  being  attacked  by  strong 
4i  passion,  general  interest  and  the  joint  forces  of  the  people, 
"  mouldered  away  of  course,  and  pined  of  a  lingering  con- 
"  sumption,  till  it  was  totally  swallowed  up  by  the  prevailing 
"  faction,  and  the  nobility  were  moulded  into  the  mass  of  the 
"people."*  The  people,  notwithstanding  [45]  the  nominal 
authority  of  the  patricians,  proceeded  regularly  in  enlarging 
their  own  powers.  They  first  extorted  from  the  senate,  the 
right  of  electing  tribunes,  with  a  negative  upon  the  proceed- 

[f  Last  two  sentences  struck  out  in  author's  copy. — P.  L.  F.] 
-*  Essay  on  the  Roman  government. 


34 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


ings  of  the  senate.**  They  obtained  the  right  of  proposing 
and  debating  laws  ;  which  before  had  been  vested  in  the  senate  ; 
and  finally  advanced  to  the  power  of  enacting  laws,  without 
the  authority  of  the  senate.  +  They  regained  the  rights  of 
election  in  their  comitia,  of  which  they  had  been  deprived  by 
Servius  Tullius."]:  They  procured  a  permanent  body  of  laws, 
collected  from  the  Grecian  institutions.  They  destroyed  the 
influence  of  augurs,  or  diviners,  by  establishing  the  tributa 
comitia,  in  which  they  were  not  allowed  to  consult  the  gods. 
They  increased  their  power  by  large  accessions  of  conquered 
lands.  They  procured  a  repeal  of  the  law  which  prohibited 
marriages  between  the  patricians  and  plebians.§  The  Licinian 
law  limited  all  possessions  to  five  hundred  acres  of  land ; 
which,  had  it  been  fully  executed,  would  have  secured  the 
commonwealth. | 

The  Romans  proceeded  thus  step  by  step  to  triumph  over 
the  aristocracy,  and  to  crown  their  privileges,  they  procured 
the  right  of  being  elected  to  the  highest  offices  of  the  state. 
By  acquiring  the  property  of  the  plebians,  the  nobility,  several 
times,  held  most  of  the  power  of  the  state  ;  but  the  people,  by 
reducing  the  interest  of  money,  abolishing  debts,  or  by  forcing 
[46]  other  advantages  from  the  patricians,  generally  held  the 
power  of  governing  in  their  own  hands. 

In  America,  we  begin  our  empire  with  more  popular  priv- 
ileges than  the  Romans  ever  enjoyed.  We  have  not  to 
struggle  against  a  monarch  or  an  aristocracy — power  is  lodged 
in  the  mass  of  the  people. 

On  reviewing  the  English  history,  we  observe  a  progress 
similar  to  that  in  Rome — an  incessant  struggle  for  liberty  from 
the  date  of  Magna  Charta,  in  John's  reign,  to  the  revolution. 
The  struggle  has  been  successful,  by  abridging  the  enormous 
power  of  the  nobility.  But  we  observe  that  the  power  of  the 
people  has  increased  in  an  exact  proportion  to  their  acquisi- 
tions of  property.  Wherever  the  right  of  primogeniture  is 
established,  property  must  accumulate  and  remain  in  families. 
Thus  the  landed  property  in  England  will  never  be  sufficiently 

*  Livy,  2.  33.  f  Livy,  3.  54.  %  Livy,  3.  33.  §Livy,  4.  6,  |  Livy, 
6.  35.  42.    "  Ne  quis  plus  quingenta  jugera  agri  possideret." 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


35 


distributed,  to  give  the  powers  of  government  wholly  into  the 
hands  of  the  people.  But  to  assist  the  struggle  for  liberty, 
commerce  has  interposed,  and  in  conjunction  with  manufac- 
turers, thrown  a  vast  weight  of  property  into  the  democratic 
scale.  Wherever  we  cast  our  eyes,  we  see  this  truth,  that 
property  is  the  basis  of  power ;  and  this,  being  established  as  a 
cardinal  point,  directs  us  to  the  means  of  preserving  our 
freedom.  Make  laws,  irrevocable  laws  in  every  state,  destroy- 
ing and  barring  entailments  ;  leave  real  estates  to  revolve  from 
hand  to  hand,  as  time  and  accident  may  direct;  and  no  family 
influence  can  be  acquired  and  established  for  a  series  of 
genera-  [47]  tions — no  man  can  obtain  dominion  over  a  large 
territory — the  laborious  and  saving,  who  are  generally  the  best 
citizens,  wTill  possess  each  his  share  of  property  and  power,  and 
thus  the  balance  of  wealth  and  power  will  continue  where  it 
is,  in  the  body  of  the  people. 

A  general  and  tolerably  equal  distribution  of  landed  prop- 
erty is  the  whole  basis  of  national  freedom  :  The  system  of 
the  great  Montesquieu  will  ever  be  erroneous,  till  the  words 
property  or  lands  in  fee  simple  are  substituted  for  virtue, 
throughout  his  Spirit  of  Laws. 

Virtue,  patriotism,  or  love  of  country,  never  was  and  never 
will  be,  till  mens'  natures  are  changed,  a  fixed,  permanent 
principle  and  support  of  government.  But  in  an  agricultural 
country,  a  general  possession  of  land  in  fee  simple,  may  be 
rendered  perpetual,  and  the  inequalities  introduced  by  com- 
merce, are  too  fluctuating  to  endanger  government.  An 
equality  of  property,  with  a  necessity  of  alienation,  constantly 
operating  to  destroy  combinations  of  powerful  families,  is  the 
very  soul  of  a  republic — While  this  continues,  the  people  will 
inevitably  possess  both  pozver  and  freedom;  when  this  is  lost, 
power  departs,  liberty  expires,  and  a  commonwealth  will 
inevitably  assume  some  other  form. 

The  liberty  of  the  press,  trial  by  jury,  the  Habeas  Corpus 
writ,  even  Magna  Charta  itself,  although  justly  deemed  the 
palladia  of  freedom,  are  all  inferior  considerations,  when"  com- 
pared with  a  general  distribution  of  real  property'  among 


36 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


[48]  every  class  of  people.*  The  power  of  entailing  estates  is 
more  dangerous  to  liberty  and  republican  government,  than 
all  the  constitutions  that  can  be  written  on  paper,  or  even 
than  a  standing  army.  Let  the  people  have  property,  and 
they  will  have  power — a  power  that  will  for  ever  be  exerted 
to  prevent  a  restriction  of  the  press,  and  abolition  of  trial  by 
jury,  or  the  abridgement  of  any  other  privilege.  The  liber- 
ties of  America,  therefore,  and  her  forms  of  government, 
stand  on  the  broadest  basis.  Removed  from  the  fears  of  a 
foreign  invasion  and  conquest,  they  are  [49]  not  exposed  to 
the  convulsions  that  shake  other  governments ;  and  the  prin- 
ciples of  freedom  are  so  general  and  energetic,  as  to  exclude 
the  possibility  of  a  change  in  our  republican  constitutions. 

But  while  property  is  considered  as  the  basis  of  the  free- 
dom of  the  American  yeomanry,  there  are  other  auxiliary  sup- 
ports ;  among  which  is  the  information  of  the  people.  In  no- 
country,  is  education  so  general — in  no  country,  have  the  body 
of  the  people  such  a  knowledge  of  the  rights  of  men  and  the 

*  Montesquieu  supposed  virtue  to  be  the  principle  of  a  republic.  He  de- 
rived his  notions  of  this  form  of  government,  from  the  astonishing  firmness, 
courage  and  patriotism  which  distinguished  the  republics  of  Greece  and  Rome. 
But  this  virtue  consisted  in  pride,  contempt  of  strangers  and  a  martial  enthusi- 
asm which  sometimes  displayed  itself  in  defence  of  their  country.  These 
principles  are  never  permanent — they  decay  with  refinement,  intercourse  with 
other  nations  and  increase  of  wealth.  No  wonder  then  that  these  republics 
declined,  for  they  were  not  founded  on  fixed  principles  ;  and  hence  authors 
imagine  that  republics  cannot  be  durable.  None  of  the  celebrated  writers 
on  government  seems  to  have  laid  sufficient  stress  on  a  general  possession  of 
real  property  in  fee-simple.  Even  the  authors  of  the  Political  Sketches,  in  the 
Museum  for  the  month  of  September,  seems  to  have  passed  it  over  in  silence  ; 
although  he  combats  Montesquieu's  system,  and  to  prove  it  false,  enumerates 
some  of  the  principles  which  distinguish  our  governments  from  others,  and 
which  he  supposes  constitutes  the  support  of  republics. 

The  English  writers  on  law  and  government  consider  Magna  Charta,  trial 
by  juries,  the  Habeas  Corpus  act,  and  the  liberty  of  the  press,  as  the  bulwarks 
of  freedom.  All  this  is  well.  But  in  no  government  of  consequence  in  Europe, 
is  freedom  established  on  its  true  and  immoveable  foundation.  The  property 
is  too  much  accumulated,  and  the  accumulations  too  well  guarded,  to  admit 
the  true  principle  of  republics.  But  few  centuries  have  elapsed,  since  the  body 
of  the  people  were  vassals.  To  such  men,  the  smallest  extension  of  popular 
privileges,  was  deemed  an  invaluable  blessing.  Hence  the  encomiums  upon 
trial  by  juries,  and  the  articles  just  mentioned.    But  these  people  have  never. 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


37 


principles  of  government.  This  knowledge,  joined  with  a 
keen  sense  of  liberty  and  a  watchful  jealousy,  will  guard  our 
constitutions,  and  awaken  the  people  to  an  instantaneous 
resistance  of  encroachments. 

But  a  principal  bulwark  of  freedom  is  the  right  of  election* 
An  equal  distribution  of  property  is  the  foundation  of  a  repub- 
lic ;  but  popular  elections  form  the  great  barrier,  which  defends 
it  from  assault,  and  guards  it  from  the  slow  and  imperceptible 
approaches  of  corruption.  Americans  !  never  resign  that 
right.  It  is  not  very  material  whether  your  representatives 
are  elected  for  one  year  or  two — but  the  right  is  the  Magna 
Charta  of  your  governments.  For  this  reason,  expunge  that 
clause  of  the  new  constitution  before  mentioned,  which  gives 
Congress  an  influence  in  the  election  of  their  own  body.  The 
time i  place  and  mariner  of  chusing  senators  or  representatives 
are  of  little  or  no  consequence  to  Congress.  The  number  o£ 
members  and  time  of  meeting  in  Congress  are  fixed  ;  but  the 
choice  should  rest  with  the  several  states.  [50]  I  repeat  it — 
reject  the  clause  with  decency,  but  with  unanimity  and  firm- 
ness. [*] 

Excepting  that  clause  the  constitution  is  good  [f] — it  guar- 
antees the  fundamental  principles  of  our  several  constitutions 
— it  guards  our  rights — and  while  it  vests  extensive  powers  in 
Congress,  it  vests  no  more  than  are  necessary  for  our  union. 
Without  powers  lodged  somewhere  in  a  single  body,  fully 
competent  to  lay  and  collect  equal  taxes  and  duties — to  adjust 

been  able  to  mount  to  the  source  of  liberty,  estates  in  fee,  or  at  least  but  par- 
tially ;  they  are  yet  obliged  to  drink  at  the  streams.  Hence  the  English  jealousy 
of  certain  rights,  which  are  guaranteed  by  acts  of  parliament.  But  in  America, 
and  here  alone,  we  have  gone  at  once  to  the  fountain-  of  liberty,  and  raised  the 
people  to  their  true  dignity.  Let  the  lands  be  possessed  by  the  people  in  fee- 
simple,  let  the  fountain  be  kept  pure,  and  the  streams  will  be  pure  of  course. 
Our  jealousy  of  trial  by  jury,  the  liberty  of  the  press,  &c,  is  totally  groundless. 
Such  rights  are  inseparably  connected  with  the  power  and  dignity  of  the  people, 
which  rest  on  their  property,  They  cannot  be  abridged.  All  other  [free] 
nations  have  wrested  property  and  freedom  from  barons  and  tyrants  ;  we  begin  . 
our  empire  with  full  possession  of  property  and  all  its  attending  rights. 

[*Last  three  sentences  struck  out  in  author's  copy. — p.  L.  F.] 
[f  Revise  to  "The  constitution  is  generally  good. — p,  L.  F.J 


38 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


controversies  between  different  states — to  silence  contending 
interests — to  suppress  insurrections — to  regulate  commerce — 
to  treat  with  foreign  nations,  our  confederation  is  a  cobweb — 
liable  to  be  blown  asunder  by  every  blast  of  faction  that  is 
raised  in  the  remotest  corner  of  the  United  States. 

Every  motive  that  can  possibly  influence  men  ever  to  unite 
under  civil  government,  now  urges  the  unanimous  adoption  of 
the  new  constitution.  But  in  America  we  are  urged  to  it  by  a 
singular  necessity.  By  the  local  situation  of  the  several  states 
a  few  command  all  the  advantages  of  commerce.  Those  states 
which  have  no  advantages,  made  equal  exertions  for  indepen- 
dence, loaded  themselves  with  immense  debts,  and  now  are 
utterly  \W  unable  to  discharge  them  ;  while  their  richer  neigh- 
bors are  taxing  them  for  their  own  benefit,  merely  because  they 
can.  I  can  prove  to  a  demonstration  that  Connecticut,  which 
has  the  heaviest  internal  or  state  debt,  in  proportion  to  its 
number  of  inhabitants,  of  any  in  the  union,  cannot  discharge 
its  debt,  on  any  principles  of  taxation  ever  yet  practised.  Yet 
[51]  the  state  pays  in  duties,  at  least  100,000  dollars  annually, 
on  goods  consumed  by  its  own  people,  but  imported  by  New 
York.  This  sum,  could  it  be  saved  to  the  state  by  an  equal 
system  of  revenue,  would  enable  that  state  to  gradually  sink 
its  debt.*  ft] 

New  Jersey  and  some  other  states  are  in  the  same  situa- 
tion, except  that  their  debts  are  not  so  large,  in  proportion  to 
their  wealth  and  population. 

The  boundaries  of  the  several  states  were  not  drawn  with 
a  view  to  independence  ;  and  while  this  country  was  subject  to 
Great  Britain,  they  produced  no  commercial  or  political  incon- 
veniences. But  the  revolution  has  placed  things  on  a  differ- 
ent footing.  The  advantages  of  some  states,  and  the  disad- 
vantages of  others  are  so  great — and  so  materially  affect  the 
business  and  interest  of  each,  that  nothing  but  an  equalizing 

[^[  "utterly  "  struck  out. — p.  l  f.] 

*The  state  debt  of  Connecticut  is  about  3,500,000  dollars,  its  proportion 

of  the  federal  debt  about  the  same  sum.  The  annual  interest  of  the  whole 
420,000  dollars. 

[f  Last  three  sentences,  the  following  paragraph  and  foot  note  struck  out 
in  author's  copy. — P.  L.  F.] 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


39 


system  of  revenue,  that  shall  reduce  the  advantages  to  some 
equitable  proportion,  can  prevent  a  civil  .war  and  save  the 
national  debt.  Such  a  system  of  revenue  is  the  sine  qua  non 
of  public  justice  and  tranquillity. 

It  is  absurd  for  a  man  to  oppose  the  adoption  of  the  con- 
stitution, because  he  thinks  some  part  of  it  defective  or  excep- 
tionable. Let  every  man  be  at  liberty  to  expunge  what  he 
judges  to  be  exceptionable,  and  not  a  syllable  of  the  constitu- 
tion [52]  will  survive  the  scrutiny.  A  painter,  after  executing 
a  masterly  piece,  requested  every  spectator  to  draw  a  pencil 
mark  over  the  part  that  did  not  please  him  ;  but  to  his  sur- 
prise, he  soon  found  the  whole  piece  defaced.  Let  every  man 
examine  the  most  perfect  building  by  his  own  taste,  and  like 
some  microscopic  critics,  condemn  the  whole  for  small  devia- 
tions from  the  rules  of  architecture,  and  not  a  part  of  the  best 
constructed  fabric  would  escape.  But  let  any  man  take  a  com- 
prehensive view  of  the  whole,  and  he  will  be  pleased  with  the 
general  beauty  and  proportions,  and  admire  the  structure. 
The  same  remarks  apply  to  the  new  constitution.  I  have 
no  doubt  that  every  member  of  the  late  convention  has 
exceptions  to  some  part  of  the  system  proposed.  Their 
constituents  have  the  same,  and  if  every  objection  must  be 
removed,  before  we  have  a  national  government,  the  Lord 
have  mercy  on  us. 

Perfection  is  not  the  lot  of  humanity.  Instead  of  censur- 
ing the  small  faults  of  the  constitution,  I  am  astonished  that 
so  many  clashing  interests  have  been  reconciled — and  so  many 
sacrifices  made  to  the  general  interest !  The  mutual  conces- 
sions made  by  the  gentlemen  of  the  convention,  reflect  the 
highest  honor  on  their  candor  and  liberality  ;  at  the  same  time, 
they  prove  that  their  minds  were  deeply  impressed  with  a  con- 
viction, that  such  mutual  sacrifices  are  essential  to  our  union. 
They  must  be  made  sooner  or  later  by  every  state  ;  or  jealous- 
ies, local  interests  and  prejudices  will  unsheath  the  sword,  and 
some  Caesar  or  Cromwell  will  avail  himself  [53]  of  our  divisions, 
and  wade  to  a  throne  through  streams  of  blood. 

It  is  not  our  duty  as  freemen,  to  receive  the  opinions  of 
any  men  however  great  and  respectable,  without  an  examina- 


40 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


tion.  But  when  we  reflect  that  [*]  some  of  the  greatest  men 
in  America,  with  the  venerable  Franklin  and  the  illustrious 
WASHINGTON  at  their  head  ;  some  of  them  the  fathers  and 
saviors  of  their  country,  men  who  have  labored  at  the  helm 
during  a  long  and  violent  tempest,  and  guided  us  to  the  haven 
of  peace — and  all  of  them  distinguished  for  their  abilities 
their  acquaintance  with  ancient  and  modern  governments,  as 
well  as  with  the  temper,  the  passions,  the  interests  and  the 
wishes  of  the  Americans  ; — when  we  reflect  on  these  circum- 
stances, it  is  impossible  to  resist  impressions  of  respect,  and 
we  are  almost  impelled  to  suspect  our  own  judgements,  when 
we  call  in  question  any  part  of  the  system,  which  they  have 
recommended  for  adoption.  Not  having  the  same  means  of 
information,  we  are  more  liable  to  mistake  the  nature  and  ten- 
dency of  particular  articles  of  the  constitution,  or  the  reasons 
on  which  they  were  admitted.  Great  confidence  therefore 
should  be  reposed  in  the  abilities,  the  zeal  and  integrity  of 
that  respectable  body.  But  after  all,  if  the  constitution 
should,  in  its  future  operation,  be  found  defective  or  inconve- 
nient, two-thirds  of  both  houses  of  Congress  or  the  application 
of  two-thirds  of  the  legislatures,  may  open  the  door  for 
amendments.  Such  improvements  may  then  be  made,  as 
experience  shall  dictate. 

[54]  Let  us  then  consider  the  New  Feder-al  Constitution,  as 
it  really  is,  an  improvement  on  the  best  constitutions  that  the 
world  ever  saw.  In  the  house  of  representatives,  the  people 
of  America  have  an  equal  voice  and  suffrage.  The  choice  of 
men  is  placed  in  the  freemen  or  electors  at  large ;  and  the 
frequency  of  elections,  and  the  responsibility  of  the  members, 
will  render  them  sufficiently  dependent  on  their  constituents. 
The  senate  will  be  composed  of  older  men  ;  and  while  their 
regular  dismission  from  office,  once  in  six  years,  will  preserve 
their  dependence  on  their  constituents,  the  duration  of  their 
existence  will  give  firmness  to  their  decisions,  and  temper  the 
factions  which  must  necessarily  prevail  in  the  other  branch. 
The  president  of  the  United  States  is  elective,  and  what  is 
a  capital  improvement  on  the  best  governments,  the  mode 

[*"The  convention  was  composed  of,"  added  after  "  that,"  by  author. — 

P.  L.  F'] 


EXAMINATION  BY  NOAH  WEBSTER. 


41 


of  chusing  him  excludes  the  danger  of  faction  and  corrup- 
tion. [*]  As  the  supreme  executive,  he  is  invested  with  power 
to  enforce  the  laws  of  the  union  and  give  energy  to  the  fed- 
eral government. 

The  constitution  defines  the  powers  of  Congress  ;  and  every 
power  not  expressly  delegated  to  that  body,  remains  in  the 
several  state-legislatures.  The  sovereignty  and  the  republican 
form  of  government  of  each  state  is  guaranteed  by  the  consti- 
tution ;  and  the  bounds  of  jurisdiction  between  the  federal 
and  respective  state  governments,  are  marked  with  precision. 
In  theory,  it  has  all  the  energy  and  freedom  of  the  British 
and  Roman  governments,  without  their  defects,  In  short,  the 
privilges  of  freemen  are  [55]  .interwoven  into  the  feelings  and 
habits  of  the  Americans ;  liberty  stands  on  the  immoveable 
basis  of  a  general  distribution  of  property  and  diffusion  of 
knowledge  ;  but  the  Americans  must  cease  to  contend,  to  fear, 
and  to  hate,  before  they  can  realize  the  benefits  of  indepen- 
dence and  government,  or  enjoy  the  blessings,  which  heaven 
has  lavished,  in  rich  profusion,  upon  this  western  world. 

[*  "  This  proves  how  little  dependence  can  be  placed  on  theory  Twelve 
years  experience,  or  four  elections  demonstrates  the  contrary." — Note  in 
author's  copy. — P.  L.  f.] 


1 C  vxft